The image of Putin's Russia as an authoritarian oil state attracts many Western analysts because it seems to carry a promise that falling oil prices will bring regime change. Thus, many were convinced that a major economic crisis would force the Kremlin either to open up the system and allow more pluralism and competition, or else fall back on naked repression-a strategy that is self-defeating in the long run. Yet, as of late February 2009, confidence in Prime Minister Putin and his handpicked successor as president, Dmitri Medvedev, appeared to be holding steady at a very high level. The Russian public sees the global economic as a result of the U.S. capitalist model. Liberals are not well positioned to gain from the current crisis, for although the crisis may be destabilizing economically, it will also strengthen the very fears on which Putin's regime is based.

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April 2009
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