This paper focuses on the way Vladimir Putin has sought to build a power base within Russian politics. This base has rested on two foundations: institutional consolidation and elite management. With regard to the institutional basis, he has relied on the constitutional position of the presidency reinforced by the power vertical, the party of power, and the presidential apparatus. He has sought to manage the elite by means of his personal administrative style within a patrimonial context, the shaping of his popular image, and the reworking of the ideological and policy spheres. The paper concludes that although the resultant power base has been solid until now, there are tensions within it that may make it unsustainable in the long run.
Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012 and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia in 2014 prompted many observers to argue that the Russian regime was in crisis and its fall was imminent. The problem is that such analyses have focused purely on the situation in Russia itself, listing the challenges and declaring that they would bring about the regime’s fall. However, by simply enumerating the challenges the regime faces, such analyses have no means of evaluating how serious those challenges actually are, and therefore how dangerous they are for continued regime survival. Certainly, the difficulty in measuring both crisis intensity and regime resilience renders this a difficult judgement to make. Another way of approaching this question is to look at the comparative literature on regime change and see what it tells us about the dynamics of regime challenge and survival. This paper looks at three triggers of regime change identified in the comparative literature – economic crisis, elections, and the decline of the presidency – to evaluate the danger facing the current Russian regime.