‘Putin returns to face new challenges’

President Putin means stable Russia in the interest of the whole world, as the global crisis weakens America and Europe while China is on the rise, believes Martin McCauley, an expert on Russia from the University of London.

­Putin gave Russia stability and respect in 2000s so now, after being endorsed as a presidential candidate, he will most certainly be re-elected next year.

The same applies to the upcoming parliamentary elections. The world is in crisis and it needs Russia with a stable leader and government, therefore the parliamentary election next week should not bring any surprises, McCauley says.

Putin is seen is a stable conservative leader but Russia faces new tasks now, the expert says.

Putin has recently announced plans to spend more on infrastructure, military and high tech modernization, which might mean less money spent on education, culture and health, all this is a tremendous challenge by itself. And there is also international competition in many spheres as well, and all this must be done simultaneously.

Opinion polls indicate that Putin’s United Russia Party could lose its dominant position in next Sunday’s parliamentary elections. If that happens, there will be an uncertainty over the legitimacy of the next government and who is going to form it, shares Martin McCauley.

“Russia needs stability in that very difficult period with both the EU and the US in crisis. The world needs a stable Russia, a stable leader and a stable government, therefore what Russia needs in the parliamentary election next week is a clear majority of the United Russia [Party] in the parliament, because that will give Russia and the world a clear indication that the present course of stability is going to continue,” Martin McCauley states.

The international reaction to Putin’s potential return to the top job has been far from ecstatic because Putin is seen as a hard man, shares McCauley.

“He gradually became harder between 2000 and 2008 with practically everyone. He represents a Russian nationalist line, if you like. The outside world does not really like that,” says expert, recalling that Putin is using Russia’s oil and gas resources as weapons on the international arena.

“Russia is enormously rich in hydrocarbons and this gives Russia a seat at the top table. The outside world is rather nervous about that, especially the United States and the European Union. Because at this time they are very weak, they are weaker than they have been in 1945,” Martin McCauley argues.

“Russia at present if it has a strong leader – and Putin is a strong leader – will be in a position to drive Russia forward and arrange certain things according to Russia’s interests.”

But, as Martin McCauley says, the US and the EU is Russia’s only first concern, the second one is China. The US, for example, considers China its main rival for the next 10 years.

According to Martin McCauley, the question now is – whether Russia and the US will find common ground and common policies to drive forward the world where China plays a role more important than themselves.

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