Vladimir Putin — the collector of Russian lands

“The closer the election, the more Putin exposed” — joking, the Russians in social networks. Some observers believe that last weekend published photos of the President shirtless while fishing in Siberia, behind the scenes means the start of the campaign for the presidential elections. The Russian President has shown muscle in just a few days before the 18th anniversary of his appointment to the post of Prime Minister.

The appointment took place on 9 August 1999. Unknown up to this point, the General public, a former KGB officer takes the reins of power from his hands, already sinking into alcoholism and illness, Boris Yeltsin. Since then, he releases them from their hands, and no one doubts that on March 18, 2018, he will achieve his re-election for a fourth term.

At the official level there is no celebration of the 18 years anniversary of his innings. Vladimir Putin sent to Abkhazia on the occasion of the 9-year anniversary of the military conflict with Georgia. In August 2008, Tbilisi tried to regain control over two breakaway regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia, quickly armed by Russia. Coming to the aid of their allies, the Russian army inflicted a crushing blow to Georgia, raising Putin’s ratings above 80%.

“Royal behavior”

Six years later, when weariness of power began to be felt by the results of public opinion polls, the master of the Kremlin sends its army to take control of the Crimea, at a time when Ukraine was overwhelmed by the Maidan. Moscow continues its invasion of Ukraine, providing military support to the separatists of Donbass, which require integration into Russia. Vladimir Putin sets new record for popularity. Since then, political observers called him “a gatherer of Russian lands.”

This “Imperial” behavior again comes to the fore as it approaches the presidential elections, which, as if by coincidence, will be held on the day of the 4th anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea. Unsinkable politician has not yet declared his candidacy, and the Russian law allows to keep this mystery open until 8 December, 100 days before the election.

Vladimir Putin has resorted to such reception in the past, seeking, thus, to stay above the fray and make political circles beg for his candidacy. The Kremlin controls from beginning to end the entire electoral process, starting from media and ending with the election Commission, often accused in the Scam, including the “rivals” that are carefully selected to the candidate is not able to infiltrate their ranks.

Putin sample 2018

In 2000 Putin to rein in the oligarchs and defeated the Chechen separatists. In 2004 he once again returned control of the economy of the state and redistributed income from the sale of oil. In 2008, Putin continues to control everything and gives your throne the ultra-liberal Dmitry Medvedev, which promises unprecedented modernization and liberalization.

Elected for the third time in 2012, Putin made a sharp turn toward conservatism and confrontation with the West. But what will be Putin in 2018? The country’s economy has stagnated since 2013. Since the annexation of the Crimea and the entry into force of international sanctions, the purchasing power of Russians has decreased by 20%.

Possible scenarios

Close to the ruling party “United Russia”, the Center of a political conjuncture considers four possible scenarios for the presidential campaign. The first, and most likely to act out of inertia. In this case we are talking about holding a “calm and predictable campaign,” without abrupt changes and surprises. This scenario does not require a major mobilization of the electorate and will not irritate the voters on the background of the economic crisis and the fall in purchasing power, especially that propaganda has managed to bore the Russians.

In the spring, the Russian media wrote about installing the “70/70”. Supposedly the Kremlin gave a secret order that Putin needs to score 70% of the votes with a turnout of 70%. Then there is a possible scenario, “mobilization.” Voting is the finest way to turn into a personal referendum each voter is for or against Putin. It will require the full engagement of political and honey resources in order to achieve the best result. Political analysts believe this scenario is very risky.

This is followed by three unlikely scenario. “Reset”, which involves the change of Prime Minister. That’s what Putin did in 2004 on the eve of his re-election. But in Putin’s entourage are people devoid of charisma or unknown to the General public.

The alternative is “Blow by” caused by a sharp aggravation of tension, designed to destabilize Putin. According to the staff of the Center for political conjuncture, this scenario can have the opposite effect and “will unite Russians around their leader.”

And the last scenario — “the Joker”. It means that Vladimir Putin will refuse to nominate his candidacy and to appoint a successor. The most risky option, as none of the Russian politicians for popularity is not even close close to Putin.

The image of a winner

Critical of the authorities independent experts believe that the first scenario is the most likely. According to Andrei Kolesnikov of Moscow Carnegie center impetus given by Vladimir Putin in 2012 will only grow: “the Emphasis can be placed on the isolationism of national patriotism or imperialism. And this can lead to the strengthening and deepening or worsening of this trend.”

The only necessary requirement is to maintain the image of a winner. Otherwise, Mr Putin will have to answer for the drop in the standard of living of Russians.