Russia Could Turn Against Vladimir Putin as Economic Strength Wanes and Western Sanctions Heighten, Economists Warn

By Jace Dela Cruz

Apr 01, 2024 01:30 AM EDT

Economists warned that Russia's economic resilience, long tested by sanctions, could be challenged this year, potentially jeopardizing Russian President Vladimir Putin's support base amid escalating pressures from the West. 

TOPSHOT - In this pool photograph distributed by Russia's state agency Sputnik, Russian President and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin meets with his election agents at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 20, 2024.
(Photo : VALERY SHARIFULIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia Could Turn Against Vladimir Putin

Yale researchers Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian told Business Insider that Russia could see a turning point if US President Joe Biden wins reelection in November as sanctions are likely to tighten in support for Ukraine.

The two researchers believe that public support for Vladimir Putin could erode if the West continues to ramp up sanctions and make life in the country more difficult. 

Sonnenfeld and Tian noted that waning economic strength and more economic pressure could make Russians more resistant to Putin's leadership. Russians have already endured a long period of complacency as Putin drags the country into its third year of war.

Sergei Guriev, a Russian economist and incoming Dean of the London Business School, echoed similar concerns and predicted that social unrest would likely come to Russia.

He foresaw a wave of social unrest reminiscent of the late Soviet Union era, characterized by economic decline and dwindling government support.

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Economists Prediction Seems Contradictory to What Russia Is Presenting on the Surface

Despite official reports indicating modest economic growth and public optimism, economists cautioned against the reliability of such data, citing the Kremlin's selective reporting to maintain a positive image. 

According to data from Russia's federal statistics service, the country's economy jumped 3.6% last year. A 2023 poll also revealed that a record 56% of Russians believed the economy was improving.

However, Sonnenfeld argued that polls and economic stats released in Russia are "beyond misleading." He dismissed Vladimir Putin's assertions of economic growth, picking only favorable stats while hiding the more terrible data points from the public.

"There's no confidence in the objectivity or the security of Russian polling. It's fully propaganda," Sonnenfeld told Business Insider.

Guriev added: "Putin doesn't believe that Russia is doing very well. Putin understands the deficiencies of the statistics, but he needs to convince Russians that everything is fine. This is his job as a dictator, to distribute this."

READ MORE: Russia Is Directly Supplying North Korea With Oil Amid Warming Ties, Defying UN Sanctions: Report

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