Challenged with the view that Russia and its exhausted political system were heading towards stagnation, he disarmingly said, “I have nothing to object to in what you are saying”, adding later that “our system is not perfect.” _Economist
Mr Putin seemed blithely confident that Russia’s economic growth would not be affected by the global crisis. Others are more doubtful, including his former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, who predicts that the oil price could fall to $60 a barrel, presenting Russia with challenges as serious as those in Europe and America. Mr Kudrin’s resignation, after Mr Putin’s promise to make Mr Medvedev prime minister, also lowers the chances of the sort of authoritarian modernisation that some liberals had once hoped for.Russia is warning that the threat of nuclear war is rising once again, with Mr. Putin's return to the presidency. Putin wants to return Russia to superpower status, and one of his strategies is apparently to wave the nuclear threat.
In foreign policy Mr Putin remained unrepentantly blunt, notably on missile defence (see article). He promoted his pet idea of a Eurasian union to foster economic integration with Russia’s former Soviet neighbours. But the Kremlin has neither the money nor the popular support for this—and Ukraine, the biggest potential prize, remains unenthusiastic. _Economist
"The possibility of local armed conflicts virtually along the entire perimeter of the border has grown dramatically," [General] Makarov said. “I cannot rule out that, in certain circumstances, local and regional armed conflicts could grow into a large-scale war, possibly even with nuclear weapons.” _rt.comBut at its core, Russia is a sick, ageing, and shrinking nation. It is doubtful whether Russia can hold on to its land holdings in the far east for many more decades.
The fate of babies that are born in Russia is a bleak one. Russia ranks #6 in the world for fatality by suicide. It has the second-highest prevalence of AIDS in Eurasia. It is #7 in the world for cigarette consumption and #5 in the world for alcohol consumption. Its rate of fatality by fire is ten times that of the United States, and it is the most dangerous place in the world to drive a car or get on a plane.Here is how Russia can still throw its weight around:
...Russians are deeply, fundamentally, infamously suspicious of anyone who is not white, Slavic and Orthodox, and therefore the notion of creating a "melting pot" in Russia is nothing more than a pipe dream. If the inflow of such persons continues there will be a furious backlash led by Russia's fearless and shameless skinhead nationalists.
What's more, with every day that passes, more and more Russians flee their country, while they still have the chance. Entrepreneurs most particularly, are leaving in droves. As this process accelerates and the supply of wretched refuse so lowly that they see Russia as a step up diminishes, immigration will cease to be a factor in stabilizing Russia's population._AT
Mr. Putin is not reluctant to play the international thug on the world stage, either. If he can not be the leader of a world superpower, at least he can make things more difficult for other leading economic powers. According to traditional thinking of the Russian peasant class, it is better to keep your rival from getting ahead, than to get ahead yourself.
...First, nuclear weapons. Simplest and most direct, Russia can threaten to blow up the world if it doesn't get what it wants.
Second, oil and gas. Especially in former Soviet space, Russia can threaten energy blackmail, turning off the lights and the heat in any country that doesn't do Moscow's bidding. The government of Ukraine has recently announced a massive shale exploration program to try to break its dependence on Russian crude.
Finally, cold war politics. Russia can funnel money, weapons and diplomatic support to the rogue regimes of the Middle East, just the way the USSR always did. It can threaten to roil their oil markets and create political instability throughout the region. _AT
But the erstwhile tsar will have his hands full just keeping his own country in one piece. Meddling in the far corners of the globe while his own human infrastructure crumbles, may be his downfall.