RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin Marks 20 Years In Power

Politico Europe reports:

Boris Yeltsin had a reputation for the sensational and the unpredictable, from ordering tanks to shell a rebellious Russian parliament to drunkenly hunting for pizza in Washington in his underwear. But he saved arguably his biggest surprise for last.

Twenty years ago this New Year’s Eve, with six months to go until the end of his final term, an ailing Yeltsin addressed Russia in a special noontime broadcast. “I am leaving. I have done all I could,” he said, his words slurred by ill health and alcohol abuse. “A new generation is coming. They can do more, and better.”

Later that night, as the Kremlin clock ticked down the final minutes of the 1990s, a dour-faced representative of that “new generation” appeared before the nation as Russia’s acting president.

Deutsche Welle reports:

“It’s too early to write off Russia as a major power,” Putin wrote before he assumed the presidency. He promised to bring Russia back to the world stage. He’s done that, despite western sanctions and getting tossed out of the G8. Whether it’s the conflict in Syria, Ukraine or Iran’s nuclear program, Russia is the kingmaker.

Ahead of the election in 2000, Putin wrote voters with the promise to strengthen the Russian state, and renew its military and arms industry. A state’s strength is more than its GDP, making power hard to measure. Yet there is broad global and domestic consensus that Russia is stronger than it was in 2000. That includes its modernized military, which is more effective than back then.

Axios reports:

Putin has not made Russia rich, free or particularly happy. But he imposed stability and has maintained it for two decades through his own blend of force and skill. Putin’s current term expires in 2024, and the constitution bars him from seeking another.

Dmitri Trenin, director of Carnegie Moscow and a former Russian military officer, does not believe Putin will change the constitution to become “president for life.” Thus, he says, “2024 will be the last year that Vladimir Putin will be president of Russia.”