Author: Tatyana Stanovaya

(By Tatyana Stanovaya, head of the analysis department at the Center for Political Technologies. Republic.ru [formerly Slon.ru], Dec. 6, 2016, https://republic.ru/posts/770 73. Condensed text:) It is more than a year before the presidential election, but [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s unofficial election campaign seems to be starting now - no matter how hard [presidential spokesman] Dmitry Peskov might be trying to portray it as Putin’s daily routine. Meetings with groups of factory workers and heart-to-heart conversations with "the public" are among Putin’s favorite technologies: He can show himself off and boast of his achievements. This is this setting in which the first contours of Putin’s future election campaign are emerging.

The question of what kind of Russia Putin intends to build during his fourth term (or fifth, depending on how you count [Dmitry] Medvedev’s 2008 - 2011 term) is now becoming a real puzzler. There’s no money in the budget; Rosneft, which has assumed the role of a responsible business company feeding pensioners, is dragging its feet on its own privatization; world oil prices are rising, but somewhat uncertainly and with no guarantees that they won’t plummet again. The government has not set any sort of economic course over the past few years. Meanwhile, Putin has had other things to worry about: Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, [US president-elect Donald] Trump, [leading candidate for the French presidency Francois] Fillon, Aleppo and more.

Economic salvation was found in import substitution, but it looked somewhat small-scale and even banal. In late 2015, Putin began tentatively to revisit the subject of high technology, and the need to reduce dependence on the fuel and energy complex. By the end of 2016, when hopes for the return of oil prosperity were bolstered by agreements with OPEC [see Current Digest, Vol. 68, No. 41, p. 15], the Kremlin began toying with an attractive new concept, combining the 2006 - 2007 idea of [Russia as] ...

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