As we exit 2014, we are left with a number of hot conflicts around the world. One was a war of choice started by Mr. Putin in Ukraine. When Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine, it was not so easy to predict how things would turn out. Now it is a bit more clear. The war is starting to impact Mr. Putin’s political fortunes in Russia.
Mr. Putin is still popular. But the signature event in Russia now is its economic crisis. So far, Mr. Putin has managed to sell the story that this has been caused by hostile outside forces in the west. A key question for 2015 will be whether this continues to sell.
I do not believe that the Russian people will suddenly blame Mr. Putin for the mess they are in. But when things get bad, people start getting angry about it. And when they are angry, they start listening more closely to stories that confirm their anger. Like stories about corruption and incompetence. These stories may create an opening for new voices inside Russia to be heard. Vox has an interesting story along these lines already.
I suspect that this will be one of the more interesting stories that will unfold in 2015 – whether the Kremlin can sustain the control of the political messaging in Russia from the top down.