A difficult year for Putin

A difficult year for Putin

MOSCOW, December 30. This past year for President Vladimir Putin was extremely rich in events. Ongoing sanctions, falling oil prices and the downturn of the economy, political conflicts, international terrorism… At a large press conference the head of state himself admitted that what had seemed a black bar on the background of today’s situation seems not so gloomy.

And yet the Kremlin is not inclined to dramatize the situation. Yes, the year has been stressful, says Dmitry Peskov, who has worked in the Putin team for 15 years. However, in a conversation with he urged not to succumb to emotions: the country is now in a stronger position than before.

Without emotions

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“If you remember 2000, the year when Russia essentially dismantled “parts”, was torn to shreds regional politicians, oligarchs, and others, if you can remember what the oil cost twenty kopecks, rather, the time was more difficult,” – said Peskov. “Now the country was consolidated, built with a clear chain of command, unified geographically, politically, ideologically and spiritually, and it certainly gives more strength and capacity to combat challenges,” said the press Secretary of the President.

Sands recalled that, as now, at the beginning of the new century, Russia was experiencing a different kind of threat. “The Genesis of these challenges is unlikely to change,” he said. “In various expressions of the elements of confrontation with the West took place then and now; the only difference is that today it is more intense, exalted, masks ripped off,” said the spokesman. “International economic environment is heavily beat on the Russian economy then and now, with the only difference that today, despite all sorts of sanctions, we are much better integrated into the world economy,” he continued. “The threat of international terrorism was relevant in those days – I mean the war in the Caucasus with the support from the outside; so the problem of terrorism is at the forefront of today” – listed Sands.

“Undoubtedly, the outgoing year easy to put it,” he said. “But it is hardly necessary to give in to emotions and to speak of something extraordinary,” – says Sands.

Isolation did not take place

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What exactly happened in 2015, is Russia’s international isolation, talk of which began a year earlier on a wave of the Ukrainian crisis and the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions. The President of the Russian Federation during the year has made fifteen foreign visits both in European and in Asian capitals and at major international meetings – UN General Assembly, Climate conference, the G20 summit. He did not become a persona non grata; on the contrary, on the sidelines of the summits, Putin became one of the most sought-after interviewees among fellow leaders.

In the Kremlin the foreign leader is also not overgrown. Only on celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Victory, which Putin called the most significant event of the year, arrived in Moscow two dozen leaders, including the President of the PRC XI Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Czech President Milos Zeman, UN Secretary General ban Ki-moon, the heads of many countries of the CIS. In addition, the Russian Federation hosted the BRICS and the SCO St. Petersburg economic forum. Visited Russia and former, continues to be influential politicians: former French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked Putin in Novo-Ogaryovo, and ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi showed Crimea.

It is noteworthy that the intensity of personal communication of the Russian leader with the current occupant of the White house, who can be seen as the main opponent of Moscow in the international arena, almost exceeded the figures of the “reboot”. In recent months, Putin had a number of conversations with Barack Obama in the UN, at the G20 summit, the conference on climate change. Twice visited Russia, the head of American diplomacy John Kerry, and in both cases he was received by the President of the Russian Federation. After the last meeting the Secretary acknowledged: “the US does not Have a specific policy on the isolation of the Russian Federation”.

In November, Putin himself stated that although no isolation was not, a year ago, relations with Western partners really “were more intense than today.” In his view, the new challenges dictate the need for joint efforts in the international arena.

The Syrian front

One of the challenges was the problem of terrorism, Putin is known not by hearsay. In the past year she appeared in the form of put under control considerable territory in Syria extremist group “Islamic state” (is prohibited in the Russian Federation – ed.). And in the ranks of this is prohibited in Russia organizations began to appear more and more immigrants from Russia, bringing to a critical threat level.

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Moscow and previously was a major diplomatic player in the Syrian settlement. But this year, the Kremlin moved from words to deeds. Giving orders beginning on September 30, the military operation in Syria, Putin has strengthened Russia’s position in this matter, though, because VKS RF, unlike coalition of Washington, acting in Syria legitimate from the point of view of international law, on the basis of the official address of the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. In addition, in the first months ATT of the Russian Federation not only pushed back the threat of capture by extremists of Damascus, but also allowed the Syrian army to conduct the offensive on a number of fronts.

Such a figure of the highest political maneuvers on the part of Putin has finally buried the idea of an international isolation of Russia. Parallel operation in Syria is the largest in the history of the new Russia foreign military campaign demonstrated the increased capabilities of the Russian Armed forces that was acknowledged even by sceptics in the Western press.

Not without losses

The attack on Russia was caused by terrorists and 31 October in the sky over the Sinai was blown up Russian passenger aircraft A321, killing all aboard 224 people. “We’re not going to wipe the tears from our soul and heart. It will stay with us forever. But this does not prevent us to find and punish the criminals,” said Putin, giving the order to punish the perpetrators of this tragedy.

Casualties could not be avoided in Syria. But the death of marine Alexander Pazinich and pilot Oleg Peshkov was not the result of terrorist attacks, and the “stab in the back” by Turkey.

Putin’s reaction to the attack on 24 November, the Turkish air force Russian su-24 was tough. The dialogue with Ankara at the highest level have been virtually eliminated. The Russian military group in Syria, whose airspace was repeatedly violated by the Turkish aircraft, was reinforced complexes S400. Finally, against Turkey imposed sanctions. While Putin emphasizes: “We believe the Turkish people friendly and people don’t want to have curtailed relations with the Turkish people. As for current leadership (Turkey) – nothing is eternal under the moon”.

The Ukrainian conflict

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Amid all these developments of Ukrainian topics by the end of 2015, depart on the second plan. Although the beginning of the year in the Donbass was alarming. Intense fighting here managed to stop only after the adoption in February of the Declaration, the leaders “channel four” and signing it on the basis of the Minsk agreements between Kiev and proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk national republics. After 16-hour talks in Minsk that lasted all night, Putin said: “This is not the best night of my life but the morning, in my opinion, good, because, despite all the difficulties of the negotiation process, we still managed to agree about the main thing”.

As it turned out, the signing of the document didn’t guarantee its implementation by the Ukrainian side. In fact Kiev is sabotaging the implementation of agreements, especially in the political part, while Russia, not being party to the conflict, promotes their implementation. Putin even raised the level of presence of Russia in the Contact group and appointed a special representative in the heavyweight domestic policy Boris Gryzlov. And yet in recent days, some observers expect the decisions of the leaders of the renewal of the Minsk agreements.

Sanctions as a chance to diversify

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Tense foreign policy agenda has not been affected in the past year on the format of the President on domestic track. Putin has not been able to focus less on the problems of socio-economic development of the country; rather, it has provided the government with more opportunities for operational guidance on vital issues, by engaging in this work in case of emergency problems in the “manual control”.

One of the major problems was the import substitution. The reason for the intense start of the program were the sanctions of Western countries. But both Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that, in the good, it ought to come to grips with before.

The President outlined the industries in which Russia should provide themselves with their own products 100%. We are talking about the spheres of ensuring national security in all senses of the word – from food to military. As a result, in Putin’s schedule for the year – dozens of meetings on the development of agriculture, medicine, space industry and, of course, defense.

The budget and oil

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Not only sanctions, but also the global market situation exacerbated the problems of the Russian economy in the past year. Energy prices, which abruptly slid down, dragged the ruble.

Active anti-crisis measures of the government, coupled with the scrutiny of the President’s budget policy made it possible to prevent collapse. At its December press conference, Putin explained that in preparing the 2015 budget scale pressure of external economic factors no one predicted. As a result, the budget had to be rewritten, and later to transform from three-year to annual.

With this in mind, the preparation of the budget in 2016 was carried out most scrupulously. With all the difficulties, Putin demanded not to lower the bar of responsibility of the state. In particular, the President highlighted the main requirements, including a deficit of less than 3% of GDP, targeting measures of social support and many others. The government has complied with these guidelines, directing the draft budget to the Parliament.

In manual mode

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Despite all the new challenges, Putin left the practice for personal participation in solving acute problems. One of the first cases in the past year, when it took the mode of “manual control”, was the situation with commuter trains, cancelled in several regions unprofitable. Presidential “are You crazy?”, addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, helped to restore the movement of trains on the day of the meeting.

Another reason for attention of the head of state was the situation in the Republic affected by wildfires. Putin three visits to the Republic, controlling works on construction of new housing for fire victims. And he was guided in its evaluation reports not so much officials, how many conversations with locals and personal inspection of the territory.

The Crimea is freed from the problems of the past

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Great attention was paid to Putin Crimea, which marked the first anniversary after the reunification with the Russian Federation. The Federal center managed to clean up the remaining on the Peninsula from the Ukrainian times the Augean stables of socio-economic problems. However, Kiev persistently trying to invent new kinds of blockades of Russian Crimea: first food, then energy.

The efforts of Ukraine, which went even to undermine the utility poles, were unsuccessful. On behalf of the head of the Russian state in a short time was launched an energy bridge to the Crimea from the Kuban. On the ceremony of launch of the first overflow Putin himself came, and this was already his third trip to the Peninsula in 2015. The same energoblok backfired Ukraine: Moscow has warned Kiev that in the near future will refuse from the purchase of Ukrainian electricity.

Baker’s dozen for the New year

New year’s eve, the President will ask the Russians of congratulation, offering to remember the passing year and take from it everything best in the coming year. If we consider the first such call to Putin on 31 December 1999, still in the position of acting President, the current will be his thirteenth. “Unlucky” number logically completes the complicated and contradictory year.

However, in the Kremlin are not inclined to sentimentality. No need to be impulsive, says Sands.

Not less categorical and Putin himself. “In the way of any development there are always difficulties and obstacles,” he said in his address to the Federal Assembly. “We will respond to all calls, we will act creatively and productively, to work for the common good and for Russia’s sake; we will go forward together and together we will succeed,” – said the President.

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