What makes Putin so popular among the Russian population? For how long will he remain in power? What is his relationship with the kleptocrats who want to maintain their business contacts and luxury apartments in the West?
Anna Arutunyan, a Russian American who has worked as a journalist in Moscow since 2012, discussed these issues – and many more- with Mark Galleoti, expert on Russian security, at NYU Prague during a public discussion entitled Inside Putin and Putinism: What Russia’s Leader Wants and Where He’s Taking Russia.
Arutunyan is the author of The Putin Mystique, a book published in 2015 that focuses on the Russian people why so many support Putin. According to the Wall Street Journal “This fascinating book is an examination of a dance between ruler and ruled, swirling on amid the ruins the Soviets left behind.” Arutunyan was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in the United States, and she is a graduate of the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Ms. Arutunyan was joined for the discussion by Mark Galleoti, the former Clinical Professor of Global Affairs at NYU at the NYU Center for Global Affairs. He has recently moved to Prague as the senior research fellow at the Institute of International Affairs Prague.
Galleoti argued that Russia is in a post-Imperial transition, pining its former Empire and defensive about its sovereignty – not unlike the UK. There are two Putins at odds with one another: the pragmatist who keeps the economy working, and the Putin who is concerned with his historical legacy, craving a glorious, sovereign Russia which has a strong voice in global issues. He taps into the population’s desire for the return of the Russian Empire, even when the size of the economy in the country today has shrunk the size of Spain’s.
Arutunyan believes that Putin’s grip on power will not hold in the coming years – the kleptocrats, who want a better relationship with the West, will persuade him to step down . “In Russian, power is the only currency,” she explained. “No matter how much money you have, no matter how many firms you own, you have no certainty that it will be yours with the next regime. Stepping down from power is hard in Russia.”