Happy anniversary Mr Putin, but you're not as powerful as you think

Media release
08 August 2019

On the eve of Vladimir Putin’s 20 year presidency anniversary, a Deakin researcher says that Russia isn't as powerful as people may believe, but perception of its dominance is contributing to ongoing European destabilisation.

Soviet historian within the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation Dr Filip Slaveski said perception had effectively granted Russia more power than it actually has in reality.

"President Putin appears to be more successful in destabilising established international power relations for his own ends, but it’s important not to assume the status quo is the norm. It’s equally as important to look at who is calling out 'Russian destabilisation' and for what reasons," Dr Slaveski said.

He believes that while there’s no great mastermind policy coming from the Kremlin, it’s critical  for President Putin to destabilise what he considers to be major foreign policy programs that aren’t harmonious with Russian policy; namely the EU and United States.

"We see that play out in Russian military intervention and its destabilisation of Ukraine, for instance, both as foreign and domestic policy," Dr Slaveski said.

"All things are connected, but people over-estimate Russia’s power. Russia isn’t doing much more than all the other big powerful states around the world to push its policies, nefarious or otherwise."

Dr Slaveski believes it’s critical that Australian foreign policy-makers look at history, in particular Russian history, to make sense of what’s currently happening on the global political stage.

"They must be properly armed with a good understanding of the depths of current problems, and their historical context, if they are to have any meaningful input in their resolution," he said.

"We are facing a crisis in European democracy. If we look at the events in the recent year, it's important to ask who’s leading the charge, who’s offering a different world order and a different future?"

Dr Slaveski, who is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award recipient, says that Russia’s Soviet past still resonates today as the world’s big political powers jostle to push their political agendas.

"What’s important for us to understand is that Russia is critical to the new world order that we are facing at the moment, we have Donald Trump pushing his ‘America first’ agenda while  United Kingdom is severing economic ties with the European Union," he said.

"Russia offers context as to what’s happening in global politics and an understanding of the political world stage, however none of what Russia does is about global domination as people may perceive it to be. It’s about retaining power at home for President Putin, it always has been. He doesn't want to conquer the world, but he wants to dominate Russia and his neighbouring region.

"Never has this been more important for President Putin. As he reaches the milestone of 20 years as president, with domestic unrest rising, he will want to ensure that he retains that power and the notion that ‘Putin is Russia'."

Dr Slaveski is available for comment about Russia and why what happens in Russia is relevant to Australian politics in the lead up to President Vladimir Putin's 20 year presidential anniversary.

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Media release Faculty of Arts and Education Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI)

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