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Will Putin run again for President? Here’s why he probably will and why he should

No sign of anyone else being prepared for the post, and with the international situation so tense Putin should stay

Alexander Mercouris

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This article was first published by RussiaFeed

As 2017 approaches its close, and as the Presidential election in March next year looms closer, the rumour mill in Moscow is working over time speculating about Putin’s intentions.

Whilst most expect Putin to run again, there are some suggestions that he is thinking of an exit, and is considering nominating a successor.

Names which typically get mentioned are Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, who was Russia’s President between 2008 and 2012, and Lieutenant General Alexey Dyumin, who is currently the Governor of Tula Region.

I have no idea what Putin’s plans are and I doubt that any one of those speculating does either, though I am sure that the top people in the Kremlin all know.  However, I would personally be very surprised if Putin decides not to run again.

Not only does his immense popularity all but guarantee his victory, but there is no indication that anyone else is being prepared to take over from him, which I would expect to be visibly the case by now if Putin really has decided not to run.

The two candidates that most often get mentioned – Prime Minister Medvedev and Lieutenant General Dyumin – are cases in point.

Medvedev has had a low profile recently, and especially because he was President previously I would have thought that if there was a plan for him to run again steps would have been taken by now to bring him forward and to raise his profile.

As for Dyumin, he is clearly an interesting man, with an impressive record in Russia’s military and intelligence services, who apparently played an important role in the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014.

Moreover as an ex-military officer he is the sort of person who would be likely to appeal to what might be loosely called the “left patriotic” side of Russia’s political spectrum.

However Dyumin’s entire career up to his appointment in 2016 as the Tula Region’s Governor was in the military, intelligence and security services.

He has no background in Russia’s central civilian institutions – the Presidential Administration and the Russian government – whilst his position as Governor of the Tula Region, though a very important one, places him well outside the centre of power in the Kremlin.

Dyumin is clearly someone to watch, and his appointment as Governor of the Tula Region may have been intended to bring him closer to the Russian people and to give him experience of Russia’s civilian administration in preparation for greater things.

However it is important to remember that the Tula Region is an important centre of Russia’s defence industries, so appointing a military officer as its Governor at a time when the Russian military is in the throws of a complex period of rearmament is perhaps not quite as surprising as it is sometimes made to appear.

Regardless, it seems on the face of it unlikely that Dyumin’s time is now.

At 45 he has plenty of time ahead of him, and if at some point he is given a job in Russia’s government or in the Kremlin he will become someone to take very seriously.

However realistically, if he is being considered as a possible future President, then that looks more likely to be in 2024 than in 2018.

There are other possible candidates who might at a stretch stand in Putin’s place in the election next year.

Obvious names are Sergey Shoigu – Russia’s extremely popular and very capable Defence Minister – and Valentina Matviyenko, the ambitious chair of Russia’s Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament) who has been performing important diplomatic tasks recently.

However again I see little evidence that any of these people are being brought forward in a way that might suggest that they are being prepared to stand for President next year.

In my opinion the delay in announcing that Putin will run is probably explained by a wish to avoid the confusion that arose on the last occasion when that happened in 2011.

It is generally accepted that on that occasion the announcement was botched, giving a further spark to the street protests that took place that year.

My guess is that the Kremlin this time wants to keep the election period as short as possible so as to avoid anything like that happening again, which is why the announcement that Putin is standing again is being delayed to the last possible moment.

However in saying all this a word of caution is in order.

On the last two occasions when Russia held Presidential elections – in 2008 and in 2012 – I got the Presidential nominee in both cases wrong.

In 2008 I expected Putin to nominate his longstanding ally Sergey Ivanov, but he chose Dmitry Medvedev instead.  In 2012 I expected Medvedev to stand again, but he and Putin decided that it should be Putin who would run instead.

Obviously those mistakes make me less confident about my predictions for next year.

Of two things however I am sure.

The first is that an article which recently appeared in the Independent saying that Putin is “tired” is certainly wrong.  Bryan MacDonald has provided a detailed response, but to see why the article is wrong it is only necessary to look at what Putin has been doing over the last few days.

Over the last week Putin has (1) chaired a key meeting of his military and defence industry chiefs; (2) met with Presidents Assad of Syria and Zeman of the Czech Republic; (3) is about to meet with Presidents Erdogan of Turkey, Rouhani of Iran, and Al-Bashir of Sudan; (4) has had a series of telephone conversations with President Trump of the United States, President Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and the Emir of Qatar; (5) has travelled to Crimea to unveil a monument to Tsar Alexander III; and has had well publicised meetings with (6) Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (to discuss production of Russia’s supersonic TU-160 bomber); (7) the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; and (8) the head of Russia’s taxation service.

This pace of activity does not suggest someone who is “tired”.

Irrespective of what Putin’s plans are, my clear view is that this would be completely the wrong moment for him to leave the Presidency.

Relations with the West remain extremely tense.  Vacating the Presidency to someone else will be seen as a sign of weakness in the West, and may lead to exorbitant and dangerous expectations of a change of course.  After all that is what happened when Putin left the Presidency in 2008.

Far from this reducing tensions it is easy to see how after a brief thaw this could heighten tensions further.

That too after all is what happened after Putin left the Presidency in 2008, with the so-called ‘reset’ quickly followed by the so-called ‘second Cold War’.

Far better that the Western powers should be made to understand that no change in direction or policy in Russia is going to happen, so that they eventually accommodate themselves to this fact.  Knowledge that Putin will continue to be around for a further six years is the only obvious way to do it.

The situation in the Middle East remains extremely unsettled, with all eyes on Russia to achieve a fair and equitable settlement of the Syrian war.

That requires someone with great experience and authority and supreme diplomatic skills to see the process through.  No potential successor to Putin has these qualities – all of which require long experience to acquire – to anything like the degree that Putin does.

Closer to home, the situation in Ukraine remains extremely dangerous.

The peace process in the conflict in the Donbass is at an impasse, with low level fighting on the contact line going on all the time.  Despite occasional claims of stabilisation, the pressure on living standards in the rest of Ukraine continues, with the underlying economic dynamics continuing to spiral down.

Political pressures appear to be increasing, with Poroshenko’s popularity having collapsed, and with a protest tent city once more on Maidan Square, but with no one having the authority or the popularity to take over.

In such a situation the danger of a further escalation in the conflict and of a further outbreak of violence is very real, with the Maidan government already embroiled in bitter quarrels with its former ‘friends’: Poland, Belarus and Hungary, and fully capable of restarting the war at any time.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that it is fear of Putin that is at least in part responsible for keeping the situation in Ukraine in check, and if he goes there has to be a very real danger that a simultaneously pressured and emboldened Kiev might see this as a sign of weakness and go for broke by restarting the war.

Were such a thing to happen would an inexperienced and untried successor to Putin know how to handle it, especially given that Ukraine would probably once more have Western support?

Putin has also developed an exceptional rapport with any number of world leaders eg. Xi Jinping of China, Modi of India, Erdogan of Turkey, Salman of Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu of Israel, Sisi of Egypt, and Abe of Japan.

Such a rapport is not automatically transferable to a successor, and at a time when the international situation is so tense it looks reckless to throw this asset away.

Turning to Russia’s domestic situation, the country has now exited recession but the very tight (in my opinion over-tight) monetary policy followed by the Central Bank – which is now being criticised by no less an institution than the IMF – has slowed growth and depressed living standards even as inflation has fallen faster than expected.

Putin’s immense popularity has limited the political damage, but there can be no assurance that this will continue under a less popular successor.

More than anything else what Russia needs now is political stability so that the hard work of stabilising the economy and of reducing inflation following the oil price fall and the 2015 inflation spike is given time to bear fruit.

There are good reasons to think that sometime after 2018 things will start to improve both internationally and domestically, with the Syrian war ended, relations with China continuing to deepen, a new more amenable post-Merkel government in Germany, possibly a more civil relationship with the US, and the economy putting on growth.

That will be the time for Putin to think about going and to prepare a successor, who might be Dyumin or someone else.

To do so now by contrast looks premature and reckless, putting everything which has been achieved at risk, and I hope Putin and his colleagues recognise the fact.

 

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Social media purge continues, as platforms operate as publishers (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 80.

Alex Christoforou

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Following the suspension of Alex Jones, Twitter has also moved to restrict Jones’ Infowars account.

BuzzFeed News is reporting that the Infowars account will be restricted from tweeting, but will still be able to browse Twitter and send direct messages to other users, while users will still be able to view the account.

The move, which essentially puts the account in read-only mode, comes less than a day after Twitter temporarily limited Infowars proprietor Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video in which he called on his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready. That video, which was shared on Twitter-owned live streaming service Periscope, was also shared by Infowars earlier on Wednesday.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Infowars’ account, which has more than 430,000 followers, will be prevented from tweeting, retweeting, liking or following other users during a seven-day window. The account will stay online, allowing users to view it during that period.

Via Zerohedge

On Tuesday, Twitter suspended the conspiracy theorist and blogger for violating the social media company’s policies, in a stark reversal for Jack Dorsey who previously bucked the trend by other tech giants to muzzle the Infowars creator.

As CNET first reported, Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet, the company said. While Twitter declined to comment on the content that violated its policies, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN the content which prompted the suspension was a video published Tuesday in which he said, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag.”

A Twitter spokesperson wouldn’t say what would get Jones or Infowars permanently suspended, however they noted “We look at [the] volume and nature of violations before suspending an account,” according to Buzzfeed.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the latest twists and turns in the vicious social media purge of conservative right and libertarian accounts. Platforms are acting like publishers and this may mean the end of monopoly social media services.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Meanwhile, in a censorship move against Libertarian commentary, Ron Paul Institute director Daniel McAdams and Antiwar editor Scott Horton were suspended by Twitter for simply retweeting. Justin Raimondo informs…

Target Liberty reports

Update from Justin:

Neither @scotthortonshow nor @DanielLMcAdams have been reinstated. You can see their tweets: they can’t tweet.

RW

Daniel McAdams explain what happened…

Robert I can give you an update from my perspective regarding what happened:

Yesterday on Twitter, former US diplomat Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) took members of the mainstream media to task for swallowing and printing government lies without even bothering to check them out. He said as a former US government official (turned whistleblower) he also lied to the press on behalf of the government and was astonished that the press swallowed each one, hook, line and sinker.

Several corporate media hacks and in particular one employee of an NGO funded by George Soros — a fellow called Jonathan Katz — piled on Peter, accusing him of all manner of treachery. When Peter ended one response with a sarcastic reference to zombie attacks – “I hope a MAGA guy eats your face” — which is obviously a joke, Katz replied that he is reporting Peter for promoting violence.

So he and his buddies ganged up on Peter and got him banned. Scott Horton and I were incensed over the ban, which seemed to us totally arbitrary. There was no threat of violence and it was no different than millions of Tweets all the time. So Scott and I both joined in and criticized Katz for running off to the authorities in attempt to get someone banned rather than just walk away from the debate.

Katz then did his usual routine and ran to the authorities and had Scott and me banned. Mine was for, as Twitter informed me, because “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” There is no way at all that my Tweet violated the above rule. In no way did I harass or threaten based on those criteria. I merely strongly criticized Katz for running to the authorities to get Peter banned.

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“I’m Not A Racist, But I’m A Nationalist”: Why Sweden Faces A Historic Election Upset

Sweden is set to have a political earthquake in September.

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Via Zerohedge


“Trains and hospitals don’t work, but immigration continues,” Roger Mathson, a retired vegetable oil factory worker in Sweden, told Bloomberg on the same day as the violent, coordinated rampage by masked gangs of youths across five Swedish cities.

We noted earlier that Swedish politicians were quick to react with anti-immigrant party ‘Sweden Democrats’ seeing a surge in the polls ahead of the September 9th election.

“I’m not a racist, but I’m a nationalist,” Mathson said. “I don’t like seeing the town square full of Niqab-clad ladies and people fighting with each other.”

Is Sweden set to have its own political earthquake in September, where general elections could end a century of Social Democratic dominance and bring to power a little known (on the world stage), but the now hugely popular nationalist party often dubbed far-right and right-wing populist, called Sweden Democrats?

Sweden, a historically largely homogeneous population of 10 million, took in an astounding 600,000 refugees over the past five years, and after Swedes across various cities looked out their windows Tuesday to see cars exploding, smoke filling the skies, and possibly armed masked men hurling explosives around busy parking lots, it appears they’ve had enough.

Over the past years of their rise as a political force in Swedish politics, the country’s media have routinely labelled the Sweden Democrats as “racists” and “Nazis” due to their seemingly single issue focus of anti-immigration and strong Euroscepticism.

A poll at the start of this week indicated the Sweden Democrats slid back to third place after topping three previous polls as the September election nears; however, Tuesday’s national crisis and what could legitimately be dubbed a serious domestic terror threat is likely to boost their popularity.

Bloomberg’s profile of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, echoes the tone of establishment Swedish media in the way they commonly cast the movement, beginning as follows:

Viking rock music and whole pigs roasting on spits drew thousands of Swedes to a festival hosted by nationalists poised to deliver their country’s biggest political upheaval in a century.

The Sweden Democrats have been led since 2005 by a clean-cut and bespectacled man, Jimmie Akesson. He’s gentrified a party that traces its roots back to the country’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe. Some polls now show the group may become the biggest in Sweden’s parliament after general elections on Sept. 9. Such an outcome would end 100 years of Social Democratic dominance.

The group’s popularity began surging after the 2015 immigration crisis began, which first hit Europe’s southern Mediterranean shores and quickly moved northward as shocking wave after wave of migrants came.

Jimmie Akesson (right). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

Akesson emphasizes something akin to a “Sweden-first” platform which European media often compares to Trump’s “America First”; and the party has long been accused of preaching forced assimilation into Swedish culture to be become a citizen.

Bloomberg’s report surveys opinions at a large political rally held in Akkeson’s hometown of Solvesborg, and some of the statements are sure to be increasingly common sentiment after this week’s coordinated multi-city attack:

At his party’s festival, Akesson revved up the crowd by slamming the establishment’s failures, calling the last two governments the worst in Swedish history. T-shirts calling for a Swexit, or an exit from the EU, were exchanged as bands played nationalist tunes.

Ted Lorentsson, a retiree from the island of Tjorn, said he’s an enthusiastic backer of the Sweden Democrats. “I think they want to improve elderly care, health care, child care,” he said. “Bring back the old Sweden.” But he also acknowledges his view has led to disagreement within his family as his daughter recoils at what she feels is the “Hitler”-like rhetoric.

No doubt, the media and Eurocrats in Brussels will take simple, innocent statements from elderly retirees like “bring back the old Sweden” as nothing short of declaration of a race war, but such views will only solidify after this week.

Another Sweden Democrat supporter, a 60-year old woman who works at a distillery, told Bloomberg, “I think you need to start seeing the whole picture in Sweden and save the original Swedish population,” she said. “I’m not racist, because I’m a realist.”

Sweden’s two biggest parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, are now feeling the pressure as Swedes increasingly worry about key issues preached by Akesson like immigration, law and order, and health care – seen as under threat by a mass influx of immigrants that the system can’t handle.

Bloomberg explains further:

But even young voters are turning their backs on the establishment. One potential SD supporter is law student Oscar Persson. Though he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote, he says it’s time for the mainstream parties to stop treating the Sweden Democrats like a pariah. “This game they are playing now, where the other parties don’t want to talk to them but still want their support, is something I don’t really understand,” he said.

Akesson has managed to entice voters from both sides of the political spectrum with a message of more welfare, lower taxes and savings based on immigration cuts.

With many Swedes now saying immigration has “gone too far” and as this week’s events have once again thrust the issue before both a national and global audience, the next round of polling will mostly like put Sweden’s conservative-right movements on top

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The Turkish Emerging Market Timebomb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him.

The Duran

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Authored by Jim O’Neill, originally on Project Syndicate:


As the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the dollar, fears of a classic emerging-market crisis have come to the fore. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him, and sooner or later, he will have to make nice with his country’s traditional Western allies.

Turkey’s falling currency and deteriorating financial conditions lend credence, at least for some people, to the notion that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I suspect that many Western policymakers, in particular, are not entirely unhappy about Turkey’s plight.

To veteran economic observers, Turkey’s troubles are almost a textbook case of an emerging-market flop. It is August, after all, and back in the 1990s, one could barely go a single year without some kind of financial crisis striking in the dog days of summer.

But more to the point, Turkey has a large, persistent current-account deficit, and a belligerent leader who does not realize – or refuses to acknowledge – that his populist economic policies are unsustainable. Moreover, Turkey has become increasingly dependent on overseas investors (and probably some wealthy domestic investors, too).

Given these slowly gestating factors, markets have long assumed that Turkey was headed for a currency crisis. In fact, such worries were widespread as far back as the fall of 2013, when I was in Istanbul interviewing business and financial leaders for a BBC Radio series on emerging economies. At that time, markets were beginning to fear that monetary-policy normalization and an end to quantitative easing in the United States would have dire consequences globally. The Turkish lira has been flirting with disaster ever since.

Now that the crisis has finally come to pass, it is Turkey’s population that will bear the brunt of it. The country must drastically tighten its domestic monetary policy, curtail foreign borrowing, and prepare for the likelihood of a full-blown economic recession, during which time domestic saving will slowly have to be rebuilt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership will both complicate matters and give Turkey some leverage. Erdoğan has  constitutional powers, reducing those of the parliament, and undercutting the independence of monetary and fiscal policymaking. And to top it off, he seems to be reveling in an escalating feud with US President Donald Trump’s administration over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

This is a dangerous brew for the leader of an emerging economy to imbibe, particularly when the United States itself has embarked on a Ronald Reagan-style fiscal expansion that has pushed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it would have otherwise. Given the unlikelihood of some external source of funding emerging, Erdoğan will eventually have to back down on some of his unorthodox policies. My guess is that we’ll see a return to a more conventional monetary policy, and possibly a new fiscal-policy framework.

As for Turkey’s leverage in the current crisis, it is worth remembering that the country has a large and youthful population, and thus the potential to grow into a much larger economy in the future. It also enjoys a privileged geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, which means that many major players have a stake in ensuring its stability. Indeed, many Europeans still hold out hope that Turkey will embrace Western-style capitalism, despite the damage that Erdoğan has done to the country’s European Union accession bid.

Among the regional powers, Russia is sometimes mentioned as a potential savior for Turkey. There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to use Turkey’s crisis to pull it even further away from its NATO allies. But Erdoğan and his advisers would be deeply mistaken to think that Russia can fill Turkey’s financial void. A Kremlin intervention would do little for Turkey, and would likely exacerbate Russia’s own .

The other two potential patrons are Qatar and, of course, China. But while Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest Gulf allies, could provide financial aid, it does not ultimately have the wherewithal to pull Turkey out of its crisis singlehandedly.

As for China, though it will not want to waste the opportunity to increase its influence vis-à-vis Turkey, it is not the country’s style to step into such a volatile situation, much less assume responsibility for solving the problem. The more likely outcome – as we are seeing in Greece – is that China will unleash its companies to pursue investment opportunities after the dust settles.

That means that Turkey’s economic salvation lies with its conventional Western allies: the US and the EU (particularly France and Germany). On August 13, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the Trump administration is watching the financial-market response to Turkey’s crisis “very closely.” The last thing that Trump wants is a crumbling world economy and a massive dollar rally, which could derail his domestic economic ambitions. So a classic Trump “trade” is probably there for Erdoğan, if he is willing to come to the negotiating table.

Likewise, some of Europe’s biggest and most fragile banks have significant exposure to Turkey. Combine that with the ongoing political crisis over migration, and you have a recipe for deeper destabilization within the EU. I, for one, cannot imagine that European leaders will sit by and do nothing while Turkey implodes on their border.

Despite his escalating rhetoric, Erdoğan may soon find that he has little choice but to abandon his isolationist and antagonistic policies of the last few years. If he does, many investors may look back next year and wish that they had snapped up a few lira when they had the chance.

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