By Panayiotis Alimisis*
Some people call him the new Tsar of Russia. Others want to refer to him as ‘the dictator’; others think that he is the ultimate leader, while only a few believe that he is simply an opportunist who suffers from megalomania. However, Vladimir Putin is widely accepted by friends and enemies, as the man who managed to put Russia back on track since he took power in 2000.
The last 18 years, a lot have happened in the global sphere and Putin proved to be a good reader of the international events in economic and geopolitical terms alike. His biggest success was to win the respect even by some of his domestic political rivals, thus boosting up his popularity, among his own people and allies. The fact that he was re-elected with the vast majority of the votes (76%) doesn’t leave much space for further analysis.
Despite the sanctions West imposed to his country as a reaction for the annexation of Crimea back in 2014, the Russian economy, maybe slowed down, but it didn’t crush as the predictions suggested. Actually the opposite happened. Putin, followed the eastern path by approaching China and the former soviet republics of East Asia, opening new markets. Russian investment in the Middle East and to the third world is growing. Russian finance and trade experts estimate that in the next decades their country’s economy could cover effectively the losses caused by the western sanctions.
Putin also stepped dynamically in the Middle East with the vision to put Russia again on the «superpower map» opposite to USA. He managed to re-approach Turkey, thus creating a ‘crack’ on the southeastern flank of NATO. Due to this new strategic move, there is good potential for Russia to find new clients on the energy sector, and create a network of pipelines through Turkey and the Balkans. Western powers tried in successive years to dominate the energy sources of the Middle East, in order to reduce the European dependence of Russian natural gas and oil. However, the Russian leader signed promptly important agreements with Turkey for the construction of new pipelines and of a nuclear plant in Akkuyu in the southern part of the country.
So far it seems that Putin knows how and when to make the necessary manoeuvres to keep Russia alive in the growing geopolitical antagonism. Many people call him the new Stalin, simply because the former Soviet leader combined an intelligent leadership with domestic authoritarianism. Whatever the future holds for him, Putin most likely will take a place next to Stalin or even next to… Peter the Great!
*Panayiotis Alimisis is journalist. He studied Modern History and International Relations at London Metropolitan University