Thursday, March 26, 2020

At the helm: 20 years ago, Putin was elected as Russia’s president for first time




26 MAR, 03:55
Keeping a broad range of issues under strict control has become Putin’s way of life
Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS
MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Russia’s four-time President Vladimir Putin marks a political anniversary on March 26: 20 years ago, he was elected for his first term as the head of Russia. However, the president will apparently have neither free time nor the desire to celebrate: Putin is reluctant to marking personal dates, and, under present conditions, he will simply have no chance to take a pause in his hectic work schedule.
Work schedule
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that on Thursday the president would meet with a group of entrepreneurs from Russian regions. Another important event on Putin’s agenda today will be G20 summit, to be held in the format of a video linkup to discuss the novel coronavirus pandemic and ways to mitigate its impact on the global economy.
In charge of everything
Keeping a broad range of issues under strict control has become Putin’s way of life. Each of his 20 years at the helm of the Russian state (15 years as president and five as the prime minister) was turbulent in its own way, posing new questions and problems: international conflicts and terrorism, economic troubles and natural disasters were only the tip of the iceberg of problems that required a prompt and weighted response.
However, those turbulent periods failed to stop Russia’s steady development, including changes in the vertical power structure, political party system reforms and measures to boost Russia’s defense. In his TASS interview for the project entitled "20 Questions with Vladimir Putin", the head of state asserted that a tsar merely issues orders, while the president works every day. "A tsar is one who just sits there, looks down from above and says: ‘They will do as I order’, while he just tries on a cap and looks at himself in the mirror," he said.
Putin’s hectic schedule, which he compared to the work of a galley slave after the first two terms in office, is widely known both in Russia and abroad. For more than two decades, he has been keeping both his friends and enemies surprised at how one person can handle it all. In an interview with TASS, Putin confessed that the idea of having a body double was floated for the sake of ensuring the safety of the head of state in the early 2000s, but the idea was rejected once and for all.
Creating trends
Although his post envisages maximum publicity, Putin prefers to keep personal things, including those related to his family, out of the public eye. His official biography only mentions two adult daughters, and the president spoke of having grandchildren, too. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that putting everything on a display is ruled out as far as the head of the Russian state is concerned.
Putin is very upbeat on scientific and engineering progress, but still prefers the special hotline phone to any of the modern gadgets. The reason is simple. "It is far easier for me to use a special phone line to be connected to any number," the president explained in an interview with TASS.
Following modern trends is not Putin’s style. He prefers to create them on his own, be it healthy lifestyle (which encouraged thousands of Russian boys to practice judo and sambo wrestling) or the choice of a remote location in taiga for his two-day vacation (after which tourists flocked to Russia’s Tuva region).
The same applies to the Russian leader’s foreign policy as well. Opposing the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, Putin managed to win the support of powerful allies, such as then French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. In 2007, Putin made his famous Munich speech, speaking out loud about Russia’s position on the international arena and expressing ideas that were ahead of their time. Almost a decade and a half later, other states started to refer to the same notions in their international affairs. A strong and confident Russia, which is no longer trying to catch up with others, has reclaimed the global recognition of a key player on the global arena, whether others like it or not.
Putin, who has always called for a diplomatic solution of any conflict, says firmly and unambiguously that Russia is not going to fight against anyone and it is laying the groundwork so that other countries, too, will not have the slightest urge to unleash an armed conflict with Moscow.
Serious work ahead
Putin has accumulated vast experience of a state leader, which has surpassed that of his incumbent counterparts from other major world powers, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (in office since 2013) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (since 2005). As far as the ex-Soviet space is concerned, Putin’s time at the helm is second only to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for almost 26 years.
In an interview to TASS, Putin confessed it had never occurred to him that his stay at the helm of power would last so long.
"It never crossed my mind. I never thought that I would wind up here. That never would have occurred to me," he said.
About the possibility of dropping out of the race at some point, Putin said he felt "responsible for what is going on, and for what will happen in the future."
He added that in 2008, he did not have the slightest idea that in four years’ time he would occupy the presidential office again, although he did not exclude that possibility altogether.
However, Putin believes that it is too early to raise the question of his status when his term expires in 2024.
When leaving Kremlin on December 31, 1999, and appointing Putin as his successor, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin told Russians: "I wish you to be happy. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness and tranquility."
During the March 26, 2000 presidential elections, in which 11 candidates took part, the most Russians cast their ballots for Putin, and have since confirmed their choice thrice.
On March 27, 2000, the day after being elected as the president of Russia for the first time, Putin said: "There is a lot of serious work ahead. A lot remains to be explained. Many things that might cause disputes are still to be done. But I have the idea of what should be done next."
The world and the country changed drastically since then, but those words still remain true today. Putin chooses to focus on what remains to be done rather than on what was done. This is what he sees as his main motivation in steering the country.




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