Recent political reshufflings in Russia highlight Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy, but also his constraints in governing the country. These moves have been his response to increasing protests in the regions outside the main cities, caused by poor economic conditions. Historically, regime change in Russia has been triggered by deteriorating economic and security conditions. Putin currently enjoys high approval ratings, but only because the population trusts him to come up with solutions to their problems.
Russia’s economic dependence on hydrocarbon exports has created structural vulnerabilities. These became visible at the end of 2012 and have worsened as oil prices dropped. The government must address the urgent economic problems and consider structural reforms that can move the economy away from its dependence on energy exports.
Two programs for relaunching the economy have been proposed, each with its own symbolism and political implications. Putin ha