In his inaugural address for his fourth term in office, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it his duty is to ensure that Russia is “peaceful and prosperous.” Based on his last term alone, it’s fair to say his statement is misleading. Russians are involved in wars in two countries and, after a period of recession, Russia’s gross domestic producti (GDP) remains at “stagnation” levels.
During Putin’s early years as president, particularly in the mid-2000s, Russians experienced a significant rise in living standards. High oil prices and sensible domestic and foreign policies led to the creation of a Russian “middle class.”
But in Putin’s last term alone, he used his military to take control of and completely annex the Crimean peninsula in 2014. In Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Putin fomented a war disguised as a “separatist uprising.” To this day the Kremlin keeps the war going by supplying arms, material, and money to two self-proclaimed “republics” in the region. The International Criminal Court has ruled that the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region constitute an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Putin’s rhetoric has been anything but peaceful as well. During his March 2018 address to the Federal Assembly, Putin spent a large portion of his speech boasting about Russia’s new nuclear weapons.
“No one was listening,” Putin said in his speech. “They will listen now.”
Putin’s presentation even included a video depicting nuclear warheads hitting the state of Florida.
At the same time, the Russian economy has been hit hard, poverty is on the rise and the gains of the mid-2000s are starting to wane. Also, while Putin claimed he was duty-bound to bring prosperity to every Russian household, the country’s wealth inequality suggests that a few households are prospering far more than others.