President of Russia Vladimir Putin
Many Arabs waited for Russian President Vladimir Putin to fulfill his promise and knock down American missiles that crashed into Syria on the morning of April 14 along with British and French missiles. However, the bear or the king, as they call him, limited himself to demanding an emergency session of the Security Council, during which the arrogant representative of the United States attacked his Russian counterpart with threats.
Indeed, many Arabs overly admired Putin as a strong leader, but you can forgive them for this, since the huge Russian media machine simply fooled them and created a misconception about the power of Russia.
How did Putin create the image of a strong leader? “The Russian president showed his strength when he came to power in 2000, and especially when he won in the second Chechen war,” said Egyptian journalist Amr Abdel-Hamid, who worked as an Al-Jazeera correspondent in Moscow when Putin became president.
“If Chechnya separated after the example of other republics, the Russian Federation would be threatened by the fate of the former Soviet Union, so Putin’s determination played an important role in preserving the unity of Russia as a state,” Abdel-Hamid told Raseef22.
This forced the Russians to rally around the “strong leader” who defends the unity of the country, can challenge the West and revive the aspirations of the expansionist nationalism inherited from the times of tsarist Russia.
“The media, of course, helped to strengthen Putin’s image as a strong leader, and this applies not only to Russian media, but also to Western media,” said an Egyptian correspondent who met Putin several times. – Remember how many times the magazine Time called him “Person of the Year”.
Putin’s Media Machine
The Russian regime has created a huge propaganda machine, including television channels broadcasting in foreign languages, as well as thousands of accounts in all languages on social networks, to distribute speeches, statements, images and videos demonstrating that Putin is a strong leader, emperor who threatens the West and conquers terrorism.
In July 2017, the Russian president said that on social networking sites there are about 5000 accounts with his name, and added that he does not manage them and has nothing to do with them. However, some researchers who have studied these profiles say that they were created for good reason and there are competent structures and organizations that manage most of them and are trying to embellish the image of Putin and spread fear among his opponents.
In October 2017, Facebook found that Russian-owned accounts published political materials that were read by 10 million people in the United States, and their goal was to create a split between the Americans on the eve of the last presidential election.
For his part, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reported on April 4, 2018 details on the work of fake accounts that were designed to improve Putin’s image, help advance his candidacy in the presidential election and interfere in political events taking place in the United States and Europe.
Zuckerberg confirmed the removal of 270 accounts that were controlled by the Internet Research Agency in Moscow, announcing that accounts had been removed targeting people living in Russia. Also, the founder of the social network mentioned that this agency controlled hundreds of accounts in America in 2016 in order to be able to interfere in the election process and publish conflicting materials, and also that Facebook removed 30,000 fake accounts on the eve of the presidential elections in France in 2017 year.
How does Putin use the weaknesses of his rivals?
Putin’s power is partly a consequence of the weakness of former US President Barack Obama and his European allies, manifested in response to the annexation of the Crimea by Russia. As reported by The Washington Post, in December last year, the administration of Donald Trump agreed with the plan to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, which Obama did not want to do in due time because of concern about the possible reaction of Putin.
Indecisive posturing of Putin
In 2007, Putin used the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Kremlin, which took place in the presence of a dog and a photographer who captured the German leader in a state of anxiety and fear, while the Russian president himself appeared to the world self-confident and indifferent.
At the same time Merkel believes, according to the German newspaper Die Welt, that this incident seems to have been planned, as the Russian president knew that she was afraid of dogs, as she had been bitten in the past.
Is Putin really strong?
According to journalist Amr Abdel-Hamid, there are no doubts that Putin has weaknesses, the most important of which is that his popularity is currently lower than at the beginning of his reign, since a significant part of the new generation is unhappy with the fact that he leads the country for 18 years.
From March 26, 2017 to April 2018, eight demonstrations took place in Russia, in which thousands of citizens took part in more than 20 cities of Russia. All of them opposed Putin personally and his regime against the backdrop of a worsening economic situation, rampant corruption and human rights abuses. However, the largest demonstrations took place between 2011 and 2013.
The expulsion of Putin from the KGB
Some Arab media argue that Vladimir Putin is a “fox” of Soviet intelligence (KGB), claiming that his work in this security structure for 15 years is a sign of a strong personality. At the same time, they ignore the fact that he did not cope with the mission entrusted to him in East Germany.
During the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin worked in East Germany (since 1985), and was fired from the KGB for failure, and then moved to work at Leningrad University.
The newspaper Washington The Post published a study conducted by European and American intelligence services, whose authors refer to a former KGB officer: “Putin was not one of the staff of this body, he was a spy, an incompetent spy who was removed after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Putin’s army is not as strong as we imagine it
Putin and his regime devoted part of their propaganda to promoting and exaggerating the capabilities of Russian weapons in order to intimidate the world with its destructive power and create such an idea about it so that others fear the army led by Putin. However, if we study the incidents that have occurred with Russian arms in the past few months, we will be able to note some disastrous events in the military sphere.
So, in March, Russia announced the collapse of the Russian cargo plane An-26 during landing at the airport of Khmeimima in Syria, which killed 26 passengers and six crew members.
In February, Moscow reported that a Su-25 fighter was shot down, which is considered the pride of the Russian aviation industry. This incident made significant changes in the calculations of the Russian military in Syria, since the combat aircraft was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile.
In October last year also crashed Russian fighter Su-24. This happened on the basis of Khemeymim, the crew members were killed.
In December 2016, 92 Russian military and journalists, including dozens of singers, musicians and dancers of the military ensemble were killed in a plane crash in the Black Sea. The plane was heading for Syria.
Problems in the Russian army are not limited to aviation. An unpleasant incident occurred also with the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, who was heading for Syria, leaving behind a trail of smoke, so it seemed that he was on fire. In 2016, the Russian Su-33 fighter aircraft fell into the sea from the deck of the aircraft carrier during the landing after the completion of the military mission in Syria.
Pavel Bayev, a Russian professor at the Brookings Institution, an expert on Russia’s military-political affairs, believes that Putin is not a strong leader, he is weak, especially in the Middle East, where his armed forces are deployed.
Answering Raseef22’s question as to whether Putin is a strong leader, he said: “No, I do not think that Putin is strong, especially in the Middle East, where the large units of his army are concentrated. Evidence of this is a devastating raid on one of the Assad battalions that the US military carried out in February. Among those killed in the attack were many Russian mercenaries. In any case, this attack demonstrated many weaknesses in the Russian presence in Syria. “
“In fact, despite all the troops deployed on Syrian territory, Putin can not inflict the same powerful blow as Washington did in February,” the professor believes.
As for Putin’s response to the US military attack on Syria on the morning of April 14, Baev asserts that the Russian response will be limited, perhaps even symbolic, or maybe Moscow will not react at all to these events.
The economy tied Putin’s hands
Experts note that Russia’s main weakness is its poor economy and its destroyed infrastructure. The average annual growth rate of the Russian economy was only 1.2% from 2008 to 2017, according to Project Syndicate.
The Russian scientist Pavel Baev confirmed that the economy is certainly a key source of weakness for the Russian president, adding that he does not have a plan and opportunities to ensure any improvement in economic performance in the coming period.
The United States and the European Union have strangled the Russian economy by imposing economic sanctions on Moscow since 2014 because of the crisis around the Crimea. As a result, the value of the Russian currency fell, inflation rates increased, unemployment and the economy suffered heavy losses in the following sectors: financial, banking, energy, shipping, and the military industry, which accounts for 20% of GDP.
Sanctions, which Washington still introduces against Russia, prevent Moscow from receiving Western investments, grants and loans, so Putin nationalized a number of banks that found themselves in a difficult situation. Western sanctions also affected Russian businessmen close to Putin, and he could not protect them.
Russia’s GDP contracted from 2.063 trillion dollars in 2014 to 1.365 trillion dollars in 2015. In 2016, it was already 1.283 trillion dollars, and a year later reached 1.46 trillion dollars.
Putin relies mainly on revenues from gas supplies to Europe and Turkey, whose volume amounted to 193.9 billion cubic meters, so he avoids escalating any crisis in relations with Europe, even against the backdrop of the continued introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, did not oppose his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter, and even agreed to sell him the latest S-400 air defense system.
Putin is a brilliant actor
German expert on body language Monica Machnig argues that an analysis of Putin’s steps during walking proves that he has a game. She added that the president is making efforts to move with strength and his left shoulder is slightly shaking, which proves that he wants to move more, but he has to restrain himself that he should behave as necessary.