Newsweek

Six More Years of Putin

In Russia, Vladimir Putin's reign will continue until 2024 and maybe beyond. What will that mean for America - and the world?
Russian President Vladimir Putin walks after the laying a wreath ceremony to the eternal flame at the Hall of Military Glory at the Mamayev Kurgan Memorial in Volgograd, Russia, on February 2.
FE_Putin_01_913349496 Source: ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty

It was close to midnight on March 18, and a triumphant Vladimir Putin stood at a podium at his campaign headquarters near Red Square. Dressed in a jacket and open-necked shirt, Russia’s longtime leader looked weary but satisfied. He had just secured a fourth presidential term in a landslide election victory, extending his rule for another six years, until 2024.

Undeterred by the freezing weather, his supporters in central Moscow waved flags and chanted, “Russia! Russia!” Despite allegations of widespread ballot-stuffing, demoralized opposition activists stayed off the streets. For Putin, it was the end to an almost perfect day.

As TV crews from across the world jostled for position, the Russian president spoke about a range of issues, from Ukraine to China to the nerve agent attack in southern England on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who once spied for Britain’s MI6. Putin dismissed British allegations that he had ordered the hit, which left Skripal and his daughter hospitalized in critical condition. “Nonsense,” he said. “It’s unthinkable that Russia would do this.”

And then, at the end of the news conference, a journalist asked Putin something that was on everyone’s mind: Was this his final presidential term? The former KGB man scoffed at the question. “Am I supposed to sit here until I’m 100?” he replied. “What you are saying sounds slightly ridiculous.”

Is it? Russia’s constitution forbids anyone from serving more than two consecutive presidential terms, but it says nothing about subsequent periods in office. Putin served two presidential terms, from 2000 to 2008, before swapping jobs with Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister. And he remained Russia’s most powerful politician before returning to the Kremlin in 2012. There is, theoretically at least, nothing but old age to stop him from pulling the same trick again in 2030, when he will be 77.

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