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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin Believes He Can Buy Off Russians for Kopecks on the Ruble, Shelin Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 23 – No state can fully compensate its people for their losses in the pandemic, but Vladimir Putin is showing that he believes he can buy off the Russian people with assistance fall smaller than other states are providing because they will be pleased to get anything now that he has frightened them with new repression, Sergey Shelin says.

            That attitude, the Rosbalt commentator says, has informed Putin’s policies for more than a decade, one that is based on his plan to reduce government spending on the population generally so as to have more money for his military goals and for himself and his wealthy supporters (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/04/23/1898985.html).

            It has worked so far, but whether it will do so now when the recession is so deep remains uncertain. And the answer may very well be found in how Russians will choose to vote in the upcoming Duma elections, Shelin suggests.

            Just how little Putin plans to get away with spending can be seen by comparing the estimated losses of the population in 2020 – some 5.2 trillion rubles (70 billion US dollars) – with what he is now offering to help them out – 270 billion rubles (4 billion US dollars) or just over a twentieth as much.

            The Kremlin leader isn’t prepared to re-index pensions or provide food cards for the poor, both of which would be much more expensive but would help Russians now in difficulty far more than the much-ballyhooed but limited subsidies he is offering. And analysts are trying to explain why Putin has made this choice.

            Some say that he fears a third wave of the pandemic and wants to retain funds to respond if that happens. Others suggest that he sees no need to provide assistance to pensioners or the poor who are likely to vote for him anyway. “It is possible that this is the case,” the Rosbalt commentator says.

            But there is “a deeper cause” at work. “Putin as a matter of principle does not want to change his far from clever social strategy,” one that has sought to reduce to a minimum government spending on the population because he assumes that the people will support him without his having to spend more on them.

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