The World Cup will be held in ten days. The international community has turned its focus to Russia where the World Cup will be held. However, if you look into the situation in Russia, you will realize it is not that quiet. It is not because of the excitement of the festival, but because of the big and small problems occurring both inside and outside of Russia. Once a strong nation against the United States, Russia has been considered as a “Trouble Maker” all around the world. It is not very welcoming introduction ahead of the worldwide festival.
The Ambition for Prolonged One-man Rule: President Putin
The result of the Russian presidential election in March was a landslide victory for Putin. It was a more than expected result. Putin had 76.6 percent of the votes when the ballot-counting was 99.8% completed. It was an overwhelming number compared to what he got in the previous presidential elections (71.3%, 63.6%). Accordingly, he will continue to take up the position as President of Russia for six more years until 2024. However, some experts believe that he will try to maintain his power, even after the end of his term as president through any means. According to the Russian constitution, a president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. Therefore, after Putin served two terms in eight years since 2000, he handed over his presidency to his close ally Medvedev, and Putin continued to wield power as Prime Minister. President Medvedev passed the revised bill which would be applied to the next president to extend the president’s term to six years. Putin came back as the owner of the Kremlin in 2012 when President Medvedev’s term came to an end, and he still continues in his presidency. Because of this, when his second consecutive term ends in 2024, it is expected that he will try to retain his influence as a man of power, just not as the president.
As a powerful ruler who ruled for 31 years, the reason why Putin is still supported by the majority of Russians is because he succeeded in capturing the hearts of the voters who miss “Powerful Russia.” When the Crimea merged with Russia in 2014, Russia was subjected to economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union., but did not bat an eye. Also, despite Western demands, Russia has resisted the expansion of NATO. The Russian government, in spite of pressure from the West, has maintained its anti-Western attitude, and this has boosted the pride of many Russians and brought voters together. Many experts predicted Putin will also fuel conflict with the West during his fourth term of rule. The Washington Post said, “If the debate over Putin’s successor and internal power struggle increases, Putin will try to strengthen the conflict with the West.”
On the other hand, some predict that this fourth term will not be too smooth. This is because “anti-Putin” voices are being heard throughout Russia. Mass anti-government protests took place across Russia in May ahead of the inauguration of his fourth term. “Russia without Putin.” “Putin is a thief.” People shouted these slogans and protested strongly against Putin’s long-term rule. They are also calling for a solution to the economic problems facing Russia. Russia also got into a period of economic stagnation in 2015 and 2016, when its economic growth rate was in its negative. In addition to this, as the West continues to impose economic sanctions against Russia because it carried out its invasion of the Ukraine, its intervention of the U.S. presidential election, and supported Syrian Assad’s government, it is true that Russia has suffered considerable damage. In the early 2000s, when Putin was in his early days of office, he revived the Russian economy which had been in default, so many voters still trust him. It is worth noting what economic policy he will execute in the future.
Russian-British Double Agent Affair
In March, a father and daughter were found falling down in a British shopping mall exposed to unidentified substances. The victims were Sergei Scripal, a former Russian double agent and his daughter, Yulia. Scripal was a Russian agent in the past but was imprisoned in Russia on charges of handing over information to Britain. Then in the 1980s, he fled to Britain in the process of exchanging spies between Britain and Russia. The British government, including Prime Minister Theresa May, judged that the Russian government was most likely involved in the assassination attempt, because the substance used in this affair was a military neural agent used in Russia in the past. Prime Minister May said, “If the Russian government does not give a reliable answer, we will assume that Russia has exerted illegal power against Britain,” and warned of a strong response. The Russian government criticized Britain that “it is political propaganda,” and continued claiming that Russia had nothing to do with the assassination attempt. Britain then deported 23 Russian diplomats from their country and said that it would boycott the World Cup if the assassination attempt was confirmed to be the work of Russia’s. In response, Russia also responded by deporting British diplomats. Also, Prime Minister May gained support from other countries for criticizing Russia. “Russia is responsible for this affair and there is no other way to explain it,” said Donald Tusk, the Permanent President of the EU summit.
The Furtive “Hacking” Targeting the Western World
Recently, warnings of Russian hacking were issued mainly in the West. The U.S. and Britain warned about Russian hacking last April. According to Reuter’s News and CNN, in a conference call with the press corps, government officials from the U.S. and Britain said, “Hackers with the Russian government infected the router.” The router is a device that helps to connect between networks and controlling the router can dominate all Internet traffic that goes through the router. Therefore, the extent of the damage could extend to government agencies, businesses, and infrastructure around the world. The British media predicted that Russia could soon attempt to hack into state infrastructure, such as energy and health, based on analysis by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Information and Communication. Besides, Western countries believed the Russian government was also involved in the 2017 elections in European countries, in addition to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The U.S. and British secret intelligence agencies are preparing themselves for Russia’s cyber-attacks.
Large and small events occurred in and out of Russia ahead of the international World Cup festival. From President Putin, who started a prolonged one-man rule, to diplomatic friction with Britain regarding the assassination attempt of a double agent, some media outlets state that Russia has become an “international trouble-maker” ahead of the World Cup. CAH hopes that Russia achieves better relations with the West as the festival for harmony is coming very soon. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >