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Has Putin Lost His Mojo?

Summary:
For most of the last decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been far less interested in solving domestic problems than in establishing Russia as an important, even fearsome, player on the world stage. But today, though there may be residual enthusiasm left for meddling in the US presidential election, sparring with the EU over issues large and small seems less exciting. MOSCOW – What a difference a year makes. In the fall of 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to be riding high. Upheaval in the West – including Donald Trump’s presidency, the Brexit drama, and European feuds over issues ranging from migration to energy – had enabled him to nurture a reputation as a steady, assertive hand in global

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For most of the last decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been far less interested in solving domestic problems than in establishing Russia as an important, even fearsome, player on the world stage. But today, though there may be residual enthusiasm left for meddling in the US presidential election, sparring with the EU over issues large and small seems less exciting.

MOSCOW – What a difference a year makes. In the fall of 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to be riding high. Upheaval in the West – including Donald Trump’s presidency, the Brexit drama, and European feuds over issues ranging from migration to energy – had enabled him to nurture a reputation as a steady, assertive hand in global politics. Now, that steadiness has begun to look more like sclerosis, with implications that extend far beyond Russia’s borders.

The COVID-19 crisis is often presented as an aberration – an unprecedented crisis demanding an unprecedented response. But, while that may be true, many of the challenges it has fueled in both Russia and the West were incipient long before SARS-CoV-2 existed.

In the United States, the pandemic has deepened economic inequality, heightened racial tensions, and exacerbated political polarization. In Europe, it has clarified just how unreliable the transatlantic relationship has become. And in Russia, it has exposed the Putin regime’s inertia, fueling what is essentially a “crisis of stability.”

This is the flipside of Putin’s supposed steadiness, which he and his minions have long presented as the antidote to the West’s meddling. The Kremlin had to intervene in Ukraine and Syria, in order to stabilize regions that were being disrupted by Western influence or adventurism. And Russia had to rewrite its constitution, in order to extend Putin’s...

Nina L. Khrushcheva
Nina L. Khrushcheva is a Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. Khrushcheva received a degree from Moscow State University with a major in Russian in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1998.

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