tv Inside Story 2018 Ep 77 Al Jazeera March 18, 2018 8:32pm-9:00pm +03
president bashar al assad has visited army positions in eastern guta where his forces now control almost eighty percent of the territory soldiers who've taken part in the effort to retake the area the un he said to be negotiating a possible ceasefire with the main rebel group. russia's ambassador to the e.u. has suggested that the nerve agent used to poison a former spy could have originated in the u.k. the british government has dismissed the claim saying the poison used on square pile and his daughter came from russia britain accuses moscow of being behind the attack a charge it denies republican senators are warning u.s. president donald trump not to fire special counsel robert mueller saying he must be allowed to investigate alleged russian meddling in the twenty sixteen presidential election has renewed his twitter attacks on both the f.b.i. and melissa's firing the bureau's former deputy director under way came friday. reported to have kept detailed notes about his interactions with the president.
there is that the top stories inside story is coming up next go away. bottom everything's dominated russian politics for a teeny is now he's sessoms of elected president for another six at a time when relations with the us a compared to the cold war and moscow is accused of poisoning a spy and britain what do russian voters expect from their leader this is inside story.
out of our welcome to the program i'm laura cottle one hundred and ten million voters a choosing a president for russia a spotlight is on one man vladimir putin has led the country for almost two decades either as president or prime minister many voters credit putin a sixty five year old former k.g.b. spy with standing up for russia's interests but others say there's no old thomas have an agenda hold reports a high turnout will boost the legitimacy of putin's expected victory you know there's a presidential election going on because of the banners in the street that say presidential election and schools are full of adults on a sunday voters have presented with a seemingly vibrant a row of choices eight candidates of veteran politicians is a communist an ultra nationalist and a former reality t.v.
star who some fancy is a future leader but not this time. this time the result is not in doubt. this man says he's voting for the father of the nation and. i trust putin and i like the way he. they are a of choice is not all it seems a series of televised election debates over the past fortnight featuring seven of the eight candidates minus putin of course quickly descended into a circus like fast in fact circus is a word the kremlin has used to describe the other seven election candidates so it's more a show of democracy than the real thing. conspicuously absent from the ballot is this man alexina valmy and to corruption lawyer turned opposition figure who's led enormous street protests in the past he's putin's most outspoken critic
barred from taking part after a conviction for embezzlement a charge he says was politically motivated novelli has called on his supporters to boycott the election as the voting day wore on low turnout what the kremlin really cares about seem to be high so to the number of alleged voter violations reported on social media big numbers will add legitimacy to the putin victory and it does appear that big numbers have turned out to vote jonah for inside story in moscow the people of crimea of voting for the first time since russia annexed the region in two thousand and fourteen. reports from. ok so i'm going to show you something now which i think is going to put the importance of crimea in this election in a bit of context this is a little metal that all the voters who are turning up here at this voting station in sevastopol are being given at the top it says sevastopol the name of the city then underneath it has the date of the referendum in two thousand and fourteen in
which crimea was reabsorbed into russia now that that referendum was always viewed by the international community by many countries as essentially the thinnest of democratic veneers for what was essentially an illegal annexation but here of course it's seeing as a legitimate view of popular will essentially and then on the back of the metal we get with russia for ever now although the presidential election here has never been after surely linked with the referendum that's what is in effect happening so for me uprooted the annexation of crimea is one of the central achievements of his last term in office he spent the last few days before campaigning finish in crimea in sevastopol flanking prime ins for their choice and then this evening all the voting is finished on red square in moscow there's going to be
a big event called russia semi stop all crimea so you can see really how important crimea is in this election campaign it's never been officially admitted but that certainly is the case chalons al-jazeera for inside story sevastopol crimea. ok let's bring in our guest now in moscow pavel felgenhauer congressman the voyage . in new york and a fellow at the washington institute for near east policy and in london via skype james nixey head of the russia and eurasia program at the foreign affairs think tank chatham house great to have you all with us thanks for being here on inside stories. so pavel let's just start with you because the key question here that least the one that putin wants to know is is it looking like a large enough turnout to legitimize this phase or apparently yes oh and occasions are that this rather reversed and the u.s.
president for them reports and would be reelected than is being reelected rise as we speak and there was never doubt that he would be reelected and apparently he'll get a good turnout and a good man mandate for another six years he wanted this seventy seventy seventy percent turnout and seventy percent of that vote was that a bit too ambitious or do you think he's actually going to get that well we'll get to see the exact figures as they're announced of course and maybe in moscow it will be less and then big cities somewhere in the caucasus and other places that could be over one hundred percent and over one hundred percent voting for putin why not say eric in chechnya so no nor he'll get you know he'll get a rebuffed mandate there's no doubt about that ok so no doubt about a robust mandate but out of there was a huge campaign wasn't there to get people to the polls why this person concerned
that not many would turn out to vote well you know one reason is if you look back at the two thousand and sixteen duma that is parliamentary election the vote was at a historic was at a historic low it was just under fifty percent and so there the kremlin certainly appears to be greatly concerned and so there was this push indeed as paul said to have a greater turnout this time but the concern you know clearly the kremlin has been concerned that there would be a low turnout and the opposition leader. is barred from from sanding in this presidential election he's been a boycott did he get that boycott. well it's a it's a little bit unclear now whether or not he did certainly there will be a number of people who will be boycotting indeed in moscow there will be a much lower turnout what's been interesting to watch is how in moscow if if the people wanted the authorities to remove the snow this year they would just write the name of allah me on the snow piles and the authority authorities would just
remove us nell so that tells you a lot about what's happening certainly not a reelection and of course putin is guaranteed a victory because it's not a real election ok james as on is that not of election but russia desperately wants it to have a piece of the net of democracy why does it care so much and is anyone buying it absolutely i couldn't agree with your last guest focus actually more this is a sham election by the way we understand it it's a recurring nation or affirmation it will be rooted in so it will listen a quarter of a century of our ask will. they have this been here to moxie well russia is not a and out and out totalitarian autocracy it's not so sure what north korea there is some freedom within but it is kept in a fully under control but the opposition people you mentioned people like never only will succeed you saw check they are also very sick sense kremlin projects this
is a slightly forces to show that there is systemic and non-systemic opposition because the crimean allows it so there is a game being played out unwritten rules and. russia does still desire respect and you can't get total respect if you are out to now talk you see this all played there a democracy put out a puzzle the one what one has to ask the question how putin manages to remain so popular when you look at russia the economy is flagging it is in a great as state of isolation that it has been for many many years and yet people genuinely do still support him. well why there's no real alternative for our kind in the russian mass psyche if you're for putin your for russia if you're against putin you're against russia he's a kind of like a monarch in that medieval empire he's a personalize ation of the russian state and that puts him in
a very very special position and a lot of people just go there to kind of show their loyalty in general general loyalty to the russian state i mean actually even in soviet times in times of to to a terran rule there were always also very very important that there be a turnout in the scene in eighty three i had gotten to a problem because they didn't want to go to vote and the director of my academic institute phoned me at home and between that vote or who said they're going to close down our institute or something like that because i was voting at a special very privileged voting as station where people from the poor borough or else of the she would vote so i mean though it was always in of course it didn't matter one vote didn't matter i mean they always got ninety nine percent but even then they were very much to strong very important to have
a total turnout and that means that the people by voting that they actually showed their salad darty with the rulers of russia so that's a very important point ok and i know why is there no viable alternative in today's russia what happened to the opposition movement to spark some twenty to twenty twelve sure well you know what happened is putin doesn't put in doesn't allow any real opposition because russia is not a real democracy it's a sham and as we talked about earlier the appearance of legitimacy is very important and certainly and that's why they're pushing for trying so hard to have. such a high turnout because it's so important to appear legitimate and indeed in the soviet times as paul said that was also the case and in fact you know when we look at what's happening now and how the authorities are trying to get the people to vote there are lots of echoes of the soviet past in terms of how they would give incentives to people they're just adapted to modern times but it's still the same
strategy and so to get back to your question. the most prominent leader the heart of russia's opposition boris nemtsov was murdered shamelessly in front of the kremlin. several years ago and so the whole political system is so controlled at the same time there's an appearance of opposition appears of technology and. the appearance of democracy but but that's not what's happening and the volley could have you know the volley could have posed a challenge to putin and that's why he's barred from running do you think we might see a resurgence of novotny down the road. it's it may be possible look you know what's interesting is the soviet union in the soviet times the communist party have a think something around ninety nine percent approval rating is officially in the whole thing just collapsed in several days in a very few people expected it to happen the protest of two thousand and eleven two thousand and twelve also i think very few expected such massive massive uprisings
you know maybe several thousand people but not the massive turnout not the largest protests since the fall of the soviet union so the thing about russia is you know sometimes things really surprise us and these approval ratings they just don't mean a whole lot for instance you know the seventy eighty the eighty ninety percent approval ratings of putin that we see. again this these are largely engineered and frankly if he felt so secure that the majority truly supported him why would he need constant reassurance does we look at the u.s. and russia thousands as i was sort of alluding to the thousands of young people joining those anti corruption protests that we saw led find a volley last year in march last year but then there wasn't really any follow up there's a groundswell is there for a revolution amongst even the young people in russia. yeah that's correct it's
a mixed picture younger generation richer. beringia corruption that's for certain they're not necessarily anti putin or anti antiquities foreign policies you know we're caught in a way so what we hope for generational change i think we should have generational change because it will inevitably bring something weren't necessarily bring some kind of nice cozy comfy russian liberal democracy. it it's more like he's appearing softer changes around the edges so we don't see this is somewhat exceptional we do see a hard line conservative nationalist in our we do see if it's going to be election results point i mean you know then that kind of happy of seventy percent if you're an ass natural to us you have to have ninety nine point nine nine percent in western liberal democracy as you're kind of happy with what you put a five percent so we're always going to see that kind of thing from russia it's not it's going to be a while before it becomes what you and i might regard
a normal west western european style state if you know as we view ok if we look at just the next six years that will bring it back a little bit have a what doesn't i'm bold and puts and name for russia. well what may she quit being is continuation of the same of course there's talk that there will be reforms there will be some reforms. but how can really radical will they be will they really make the difference because everyone understands that russia right now is in a very serious situation the economy is stagnant the household incomes are decreasing for four years in a row there is potential for social unrest and in the russian ruling elite this very small group of people. west and a thousand families who rule actually russia they're also deeply split into this
there's the so-called and putin is government and ministration the split there is a so-called party of war so-called party of peace who see the future of russia very different terms and putin is the kind of the arbiter supreme he unites them and without putin if you take put in out of the picture and well he's just a mortal man then suddenly you're going to have have very destabilized russian ruling class fight infighting openly inside itself as right now it's infighting but it's kind of they all go to putin and he they have dress him and they put different ideas and he's trying to find a middle ground saying will decrease defense spending at the same time a continued the friend spending we're going to kickstart the economy it's trying to make reforms in all directions and the result is not very effective the people
still hope that put in will pull off the trick as it was in the year from the year two thousand to two thousand they're around and that there's going to be robust growth that he can do it puts him a believes that sue on a flan could rig. can pull off the trick and the kick start the economy but if it doesn't we're going to be in the very strange situation where on the face of it it's a very stable regime were for public support but it's split inside and russia economy not growing the problems are going to pile up yeah on a pittance pledged to raise wages fix health care education infrastructure i mean the list goes on and what happens if he can't deliver. that's it that's exactly right. you know the russian economy is deteriorating he is promising all these things but he's but he's not explaining how exactly he's going to do it and where
where exactly is the money going to come from for example recently the government announced something around a thirty five billion dollar reform package but again where's this money going to come from the fact of the matter is the russian economy is on the slow deterioration pass putin to remember when he came to power he promised to bring stability and growth and for some time he did preside over these changes and the people truly felt that this was this was this was a really big deal in fact for the first time russia saw an emergence of what we could call a middle class that it never had before but the question is exactly what's going to happen when russia's living standards are dropping so low that you are is already where we're going to be in a similar situation to what we had towards the end of the fall of the soviet union where the system was pretty much bankrupt now i do see some differences between now and the soviet union it's not identical for a number of reasons but again it may appear stable but there's lots of tension
underneath and what i see happening is putin talking about the increasing wartime what mobilization this wartime rhetoric increase defense spending and the spending on defense this is quite real because he's mobilizing the public to put them in the sort of a wartime state because when you're is when you're focused on security. issues of economy are always secondary so it's sort of like distracting the public from their problems by talking about enemies russia being surrounded by enemies and that was not the time to think about the more mundane issues now is the time to think about sacrifice and again the question is you know on the one hand this can go on for a long time but i'm. the other how long can this really last and what will it look like when it james what do you think about how many people do say that they will focus on foreign policy is see many aggressive moves on the global stage in recent times and that does bring popular support but at the at the expense of the economy
. yeah i broadly agree with your your about your two speakers whereby economy is actually stagnation it's not i have to say in my view that huge of a cliff you can bumble on war less ok look we can continue spending over ten percent of its g.d.p. by year on defense in a slightly desperate sysop attempt a failing attempt type to so just to keep up but yet the purpose of your question is is based on the idea that you can sort of cares about the prosperity of his is subject to czarist subjects if you like another because that is a false premise what putin cares about is so coin or to paraphrase them trump is to make russia great again by this time he has done precisely that russia under police yeltsin was indeed
a much diminished figure of fun. and putin has again at least by his standards he has made russia respected at least they noticed russia has to be consulted shall we say or he demands that it is a demand that it is it is frankly obeyed as well by international community and that's what he wants he wants a change to the established post-hole order and whether your hand gets out is a matter of political will in the west because clearly russia is not symmetrical equal power to the combined forces of western europe and the united states but it does ensure syria is a good example of this where the west does have to take note of what russia is doing and adapt in the conflict to a certain extent because he's not prepared it seems the latest events in my country notwithstanding. i don't take russia on fully as it much too yeah i am part of the input instead himself people are listening now and had he been listening now to
russia he's catapulted russia on to the world stage do you agree with james that he's done that at the expense of the welfare of the same people that it's pretty damning what dan said that he doesn't care about russian people. whoa no that's not true i threw a greenie that the russian economy and financial system are not on the verge of collapse at all rather they have a very russia has a very sound economic basis where you produce oil gas as those fertilizers i mean commodities you can always they always have a price you can always sell them. that means the economy will continue to work it's not growing and that's a problem and putin is recognizing that there's a problem and he is right now being in this election nearing cycle talking about that yes it's going to grow saying all the time that people it's going to grow your
sour ease your incomes will increase and that is politically important this is not north korea this is not authoritarian state. if the if the people become really restless that this will be a serious political problem and boots and knows that and and his ruling class knows that so it's not that he doesn't care he cares a lot but he was believes that he should find a balance with the west show the west that russia is strong and cannot be undermined but then find a quid pro quo ok make sanctions to be decreased and get the economy to grow again right and i would just go to a minute left just want to know after putin ends in six he is what happens then it's a great question i don't think i don't have a great answer for you i don't think anybody knows but one possibility that i see is i certainly don't see prudent wanting to leave power one possibility is that he
could simply amend the russian constitution at the united russia party now has a super majority in the parliament so he could amend the constitution to stay for life that's one that's one possibility certainly he shows no interest in leaving. ok many thanks to all our guests we will have to leave it there but thanks very much playing time to join us here on inside story probably going to have an abortive sky and james nixey and thank you for watching you can see the program again any time by visiting our website dot com and of other discussion to go to our facebook page that's facebook dot com for slash a.j. inside story you can also join the conversation on twitter one hundred and a.j. inside story from me laura kyle and the whole team here at spike and. my.
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a vote and then leave that defo find a stronger man or song woman while getting the growth the projection is in this world because the models of europe's forbidden colony episode two at this time on al-jazeera. i'm. well you know. some of it i like. this is al-jazeera. although i'm citizen this is a news outlet from london coming out.