Putin Wins Russian Election Amid World’s Growing Concern Of A New Cold War
As U.S. and Russia tensions grow increasingly tense and complex, Vladimir Putin secured six more years at the Kremlin after a landslide victory in the Russian election on March 18.
Putin won almost 77 percent of the vote in the Russian election, as official results showed on Monday morning. The Communist Party’s Pavel Grudinin came second after earning 12 percent of the votes, followed by ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 6 percent, former television presenter Ksenia Sobchak earned 1.7 percent, and liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky won just over 1 percent of the total votes.
Putin thanked his supporters soon after preliminary results came in. “Thank you for your support,” Putin said as he addressed crowds at Manezhnaya Square just under the Kremlin walls. “Everyone who voted today is part of our big, national team.”
The Kremlin administration expected the turnout would reach around 70 percent. As of Sunday morning, the turnout for the Russian election stood at 60 percent.
The government tried its best to attract voters to cast their ballot; they offered free iPhones and even cars, as well as holding a selfie contest.
The opposition parties criticized the election, saying that there were many irregularities in the poll. Video recordings showed that some people stuffed the ballot box with papers or even used balloons to block video cameras.
— Движение Голос (@golosinfo) March 18, 2018
Despite the government defending the ballot as well-conducted, international observers also described Sunday’s ballot as “overly controlled” and lacking “real” competition.
The West’s response to Putin’s win
The incumbent’s upcoming fourth term came as no surprise. The West seemed to be less enthusiastic in responding to the already-predicted election result due to the tension following the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in the city of Salisbury, UK.
Leaders of Asian and Latin American nations, on the other hand, sent an extended congratulatory message to Putin’s easy victory. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for example, said that the relationship between his country and Russia “is perfect.” Xi also added that both countries’ strategic partnerships is “at its best in history.”
Does Putin’s reelection mean the next Cold War is approaching?
Many European newspapers wrote that Putin won the election in a “Cold War atmosphere.” French business paper Les Echos, for example, wrote that Putin was re-elected in a “Cold War climate,” adding that it was “impossible” for him to lose the vote amid a deepening diplomatic crisis with the West. Poland’s conservative media outlet Rzeczpospolita said that Putin’s victory means furthering confrontation with the West.
The relationship between Russia and the West has been put to the test after the latter accused the Kremlin of masterminding the poisoning of Russian ex-double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in early March in the UK. The tension was also worsened when the U.S. imposed a sanction on Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.
Just weeks before the Russian election, at the annual Russian state-of-the-nation speech, Putin unveiled Russia’s new invincible nuclear arsenal capable of attacking as far as Florida. World leaders feared that the Kremlin would trigger an arms race, but Putin repeatedly denied that his new nuclear missile would worsen the stability in the region.
“Nobody plans to accelerate an arms race,” Putin stated after taking the majority of the vote.
The mystery of Skripal’s poisoning
The nerve agent attack on Skripal and his daughter is still headlining European media outlets. The West is convinced that Russia was behind the attack, though Russia has denied the allegations, stating that they had destroyed all of its chemical weapons.
A previous report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had declared that Russia was free of chemical weapons. The OPCW is analyzing the nerve agent used in the Skripal attacks and if results suggest it could be linked to Russia, the OPCW may request permission to enter Russia and examine weapons facilities.
In contradiction to Moscow’s claim that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia had ever developed such a weapon, a former scientist of the Soviet era came forward to admit that he helped to create a nerve agent called Novichok, which was used to poison the 66-year-old Skripal and his daughter.
Professor Leonid Rinik said that the substance did not look Moscow-made because the individuals did not immediately die. Both father and daughter remain in critical condition; the investigation is still ongoing.
What will happen to the state of the world in the next six years? It depends not only on Russia and Putin, but also on the responses of the West to any difficult scenarios they may have to face over Putin’s term.