Will we see a Russian Spring in 2012?

The protests in the Arab world in 2011 caused a great change within many countries.  In Libya, a civil war erupted and Gaddafi was forced out of power and subsequently killed.  Other leaders such as Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, were also removed from power.

In Russia there have been growing protests since the disputed legislative elections.  On 5th December there was public outrage as many people believed that the election had been fixed in favour of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the United Russia Party. The allegations against United Russia were fuelled by claims and rumours that voter turnout had reportedly been up to 140% in some areas and that United Russia had 99.5% of the support in other areas (although these figures have not been confirmed and are unlikely to be accurate). Protests began in Moscow and it is estimated that up to 8000 people protested on the first day. Many people believed that the election had been a sham and called for Putin to step down as Prime Minister and Leader of the United Russia party; some also demanded a re-election.   Since then, there has been growing pressure on the government to step down and annul the election.  Many public figures and governments have called for an investigation into the election, including US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

As protests and clashes with government forces increased there have been people asking whether or not there will be a revolution and will we see a Russian Spring in the near future?  Many countries in the Arab world have seen people uprising against their governments and removing them from power and it has been suggested that the Russian protestors may be able to do the same thing and remove Vladmir Putin, Dmitri Medvedev and United Russia from power.

However this is a very unlikely scenario.  The Russian government is too powerful and has many assets at its disposal.  One of the main reasons why the Arab regimes fell was foreign intervention.  NATO used military power in Libya to support the pro-democracy rebels and the Syrian regime is currently under a large amount of political pressure from the Arab League and the international community.  Foreign intervention of any kind would not happen in Russia; the West would not want to antagonise the Russian government as Russia is a nuclear and energy superpower and the West would not want to cause another Cold War.

When Libya and Egypt fell, their leaders were aging and frail and were also losing the support of the majority of their electorate.  Putin, on the other hand, is still powerful and shows no sign of weakness.  He still has support from a large amount of Russians, especially those in the Russian elite.  Putin and United Russia will eventually be able to gain the support that they once had and they will not be in a position where they are in danger of being removed from power.

The Russian protests will not cause a revolution in the same way the protests in the Arab world did but it is possible that they may cause some sort of political reform.  Many people have called for the recent election to be annulled and for a new election to be held; however this is unlikely to happen as it would mean that the Kremlin would have to admit fault and those in charge would possibly face prosecution.

In conclusion, the Russian people will not be able to remove their government by force; the Kremlin is just too powerful.  Medvedev may not return as Prime Minister in March as a game of political musical chairs may be too much for the Russian population.  However Putin does not show any signs of weakness and will probably remain in power until at least the next scheduled election.

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Posted on January 4, 2012, in Foreign Affairs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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