Putin has big problems on the Russian home front

Things aren't looking so strong for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on his home front.

As Russia callously props up the brutal Marxist Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela, presumably to get repaid on billions in loans from the socialist hellhole, as well as to take a slap at us, Putin is neglecting Russia's economy back home, prompting some scary reports about Russian poverty and a new report that Russians want to flee.

Here's what U.S. News & World Report has about desire to leave:

A NEW HIGH OF one-in-five Russians say that, if they could, they would like to leave their country.

According to a new Gallup poll, in 2018, 20% of Russians wanted to permanently move to another country, an increase from 17% in 2017.  The increase may be of concern to the country, which experienced a population decline last year for the first time in a decade.

Here's what Newsweek had to report about Russian poverty:

President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson has reacted with confusion to new official data showing that Russians are increasingly struggling to make ends meet.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary, said the Kremlin did not understand the data published by Rosstat — the state statistics agency — on March 31.

When asked about the data, Peskov reportedly sighed and said the government "struggled" to understand the figures, the BBC reported.  "Why shoes?  Why one third?  Where are these figures from?" he asked.  The press secretary added he would appreciate an explanation from Rosstat as to the findings.

Combine a bad economy with weak political freedom that has been pretty weak for a while, and it's sufficient to see why people just want to leave.  The New York Times had a good piece last month about how the Russian government is now trying to manipulate the numbers to keep the poverty out of the press.

Not good.

This raises questions about what Putin's own prospects are as he digs in to defend Maduro.  He's been out of touch for a while — "bronzed," as New York Times correspondent Steven Lee Myers noted in his 2015 book.  Analyst Michael Rubin notes that the 20% figure wanting to emigrate was also around in 2011, so we know that Russia can probably endure a lot.

But the figure keeps sliding, and Rubin thinks Russia's economy — mired in the old oil-as-a-weapon model not that different from Hugo Chávez's — and more importantly, not changing, is in trouble.  As U.S. News notes, it now comes as the country has gone back to its bad old days of demographic decline.  People are comparing Putin to Brezhnev now, and Brezhnev was big on military adventurism, too.

This one is worth watching.  Putin's ouster may be in the cards.  It certainly should be used as leverage on the matter of U.S. interests.  Maduro, beware.

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