GZERO Media logo

PUTIN’S OWN-GOAL?

PUTIN’S OWN-GOAL?

Since the World Cup began, the Russian team’s goal differential has been +4 points. Over the same period, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has rung up a differential of… negative 14 points, according to Kremlin-connected pollster VTsIOM. His current rating of 63 percent nears his historic lows, sitting roughly where he was back in 2014, when Putin-fatigue and economic malaise had taken their toll until the invasion of Crimea sent his numbers soaring.


What’s going on? Two weeks ago, the Russian government announced it would increase the pension age from 60 to 65 for men and 55 to 63 for women. The change was long overdue for an inefficient and underfunded system, but it sure wasn’t popular. For one thing, life expectancy for Russian men born in the 1960s is 62 years — “we’ll see our pensions — in the grave” read one choice poster at scattered anti-reform protests this weekend.

The pensions fiasco has hurt Putin’s numbers badly for two reasons. The first is simple math: there are currently about 43 million pensioners in Russia — that’s almost a third of the population. They have long been among the most stalwart Putin supporters, and he’s just angered all of them in one go.

Second, a large part of Putin’s appeal has always been the sense that he moved Russia beyond the troubles of the 1990s, when post-Soviet economic chaos reduced much of Russia — in particular elderly pensioners — to penury and humiliation. After a botched experiment with pension reforms in 2005 provoked huge mid-winter protests by old folks, the government swore off any further changes and plowed more and more money, unsustainably, into pensions. It took 13 more years for Putin to approve a bigger reform — and he only did it after his (third) re-election back in March was comfortably in the bag.

So what happens next? Putin has kept a low profile in recent days, opting not to turn up for the Russian teams stunning defeat of former world champs Spain on Sunday. Protests have so far been small, owing to some unusually thrilling World Cup soccer. But when the tournament euphoria wears off, Putin will have to confront the first serious challenge to his popularity in more than a decade. Who’ll take the fall?

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

You've watched Indian Matchmaking... We bring you the Hindu Nationalist Matchmaker where we help find love for the 70 year old virgin - Narendra Modi!

"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal