Staunton, July 7 – Despite the claimed results and the triumphalism surrounding them, Vladimir Putin did not win a resounding victory in the July 1 vote on the constitutional amendments and, because that is the case, Valery Solovey says, the Kremlin leader is more likely to engage in a new act of aggression to compensate.
According to the former MGIMO professor and controversialist, the amendments Putin wanted passed did not garner 78 percent of the vote but only 56 to 58 percent, and thus those voting against his position won not the 21 percent his officials reported but as much as 50 to 42 percent (telegra.ph/Za-kulisami-plebiscita-07-05).
Putin would have won even if the voting had not been manipulated and falsified, Solovey continues; but his victory was “extremely uncertain and doubtful” and not the mandate he wanted. He had hoped for better, but in only a slight modification of Chernomyrdin’s classic observation of Russian leadership, it turned out much less well than he wanted.
In Putin’s thinking, there is only one other means for him to win back popular support for himself as the nation’s leader: a new military victory in the style of Crimea. The Anschluss sent his ratings skyrocketing and he would like to achieve that again, all the more so that he didn’t gain it at the ballot box.
Solovey suggests that there are four more or less obvious possibilities for such action: unification with Belarus, Finlandizing Ukraine by further conquest, absorption of “Russian lands” in northern Kazakhstan, and forcing the three Baltic countries to withdraw from NATO and return to the Russian sphere of influence.
None of these would be as easy or as effective as the annexation of Crimea in 2014. But Putin now wants to do something to win back his standing. And while his resources for that are less than they were and possibly less than needed for any of these tasks, the vote a week ago means, Solovey insists, that he will be considering one of these actions or another soon.