How is Russia doing after 20 years of Putin?

Boris Yeltsin resigned as Russian president in a surprise move on New Year's Eve of 1999, making way for 47-year-old Vladimir Putin, who at the time was relatively unknown. After 20 years - in which Putin alternated as president and prime minister - media outlets take stock of the leader's rule.

Open/close all quotes
Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

The dream of a return to former glory

Former Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky explains in Ukrayinska Pravda that Putin's ambition is to reunite the former Soviet republics with Russia using the current example of Belarus:

“A new Kremlin ideology has emerged, an imperialism disguised as Eurasism. Russia's ideologists and political leaders want to rewrite European history in this way. ... Unification with Belarus by 2024 will not only give the Kremlin several trump cards and solve the problem of a new post for Putin [as president of a Russia united with Belarus]. It is also entirely in keeping with Russia's imperial policy, in which ten million predominantly Slavic Christians will be swallowed up without any problems while at the same time preserving a good infrastructure for industry and agriculture. All that needs to be done now is to bring Lukashenko to heel. By no means an unrealistic goal for the Kremlin.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

President adorns himself with the past

Vedomosti finds Putin's tendency to emphasise historical issues - in particular the question of how the Second World War began - significant:

“Even after 20 years in power, Putin still hasn't found any other ideological justification for his policy. Instead of presenting society with a vision for Russia's future or the results of his own rule he prefers to focus on preserving the results and achievements of a war that ended 75 years ago. Precisely because exploiting the glorious past is more fruitful than constructing a great future: in 20 years so many promises have been made that simply recalling them all is indecent: moon bases and flights to Mars, unrealized income boosts for the people, etc. The cult of victory, on the other hand, appears to be risk free.”

Polityka (PL) /

Russia's millennials feel betrayed

For young Russians Putin is above all a source of frustration, Polityka points out:

“For young people who often can't remember having any other president, Putin is a symbol of failure and a man who has stolen the future of several generations. A president who doesn't keep up with the times, isn't present on social media or in public debates. ... Young people know that Putin restricts them, slows their development compared to their Western peers, doesn't invest in technology and instead focuses on mythical state power. Unlike their parents and grandparents, Russian millennials are aware that they are citizens of one of the richest countries in Europe but doesn't make use of its potential.”

Ouest-France (FR) /

Not Europe's most dangerous opponent

The Russian president believes himself to be more powerful than he really is, Ouest-France concludes:

“No matter how clever Putin may be, he is not in a position to take what could amount to a revenge on history. And for a very simple reason: Russia has beautiful military remains, but it is an ageing country that is reluctant to embrace economic reforms. Its GDP is hardly higher than that of Spain. If another kind of cold war breaks out, it will be with China, not Moscow. ... In today's world - and not in Putin's world - Russia remains a menacing power that wants to divide the Western camp and especially the Europeans. But it is no longer the number one protagonist, as the shadow cast by the Soviet spectre would have us believe. Russia is just one actor among many.”