Recent events in Russia have created a crisis for the ruling regime of Vladimir Putin. The large demonstrations following the fraudulent parliamentary election early last December, suggest that Russia’s presidential election in March will not go as smoothly as Putin had hoped. Putin will have to work hard to regain his authoritarian rule over the country and try to avoid further damage to his weakened regime.
First, when a country is faced with a domestic political crisis, leaders seek to point out an “external enemy to blame for internal problems”. Unfortunately this can manifest itself through military actions. The Russian regime has already spoken upon increase its anti-American rhetoric, as it has already done periodically throughout the last ten years. This time, this approach has not been very effective. Efforts by Putin to portray the demonstrations as a western conspiracy have largely failed.
It is still possible that Putin will pursue a more dangerous route by seeking to uphold his regime through conflict with one of Russia’s many neighbors. The most obvious target for this type of conflict is said to be Georgia, due to the brief war that was fought in 2008.
The U.S. has a long and mixed record of supporting democracy and human rights in Russia. The end of the Putin regime would be a great opportunity to pursue the next phase of this attempt; however, the U.S. no longer has the resources needed to commit fully to building democracy in post-Putin Russia, should it come to that.