Putin Outlines Series of Projects To Trigger Major Changes To Prolong Grip On Power

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 17 January 2020
Putin Outlines Series of Projects To Trigger Major Changes To Prolong Grip On Power

On January 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Assembly, which has already been described as sensational and revolutionary. Moreover, immediately after the address, the government resigned and a new candidate for the post of prime minister was nominated.

And all this happened on the same day and important changes to the Constitution are in the pipeline, aimed at further developing the principles of democracy and strengthening the sovereignty of the country.

Prior to Vladimir Putin’s address, it surfaced that its main topic will be the increase in the standard of living of the population. This was to be expected, since this is what Putin has been talking about lately in almost every speech. But the measures that were outlined in the message probably exceeded all expectations.

The president’s messages to the Federal Assembly have always been interesting outside of Russia, primarily because they contained important statements addressed to the country's foreign partners. In two previous messages, for example, a significant accent was made to the issue of ensuring the country's defense capability over measures undertaken by the USA.

In the current message, such issues were allotted more than a modest place, and the main call of the Russian leader to foreign partners was to ensure peace and prevent the outbreak of a major war. Putin drew attention to how "unpredictable, uncontrollable events in the world are happening, what is happening in the Middle East, North Africa", how regional conflicts can rapidly develop into threats to the entire international community.

“I am convinced that a serious and direct discussion about the basic principles of a stable world order, about the most acute problems that humanity is facing, has certainly matured. It is necessary to show political will, wisdom, and courage. Time requires an awareness of our shared responsibility and real actions. The UN founding countries – the permanent members of the UN - should set an example. It is the five nuclear powers that bear a special responsibility for the preservation and sustainable development of the mankind. Five nations should first of all start with measures to remove the prerequisites for a global war, develop updated approaches to ensuring stability on the planet that would fully take into account the political, economic, military aspects of modern international relations,” Vladimir Putin said.

He also stressed that Russia is open to strengthen cooperation with all interested partners, does not threaten anyone, and does not seek to impose its will.

“Simultaneously, I can assure everyone: our steps to strengthen national security have been taken in a timely manner and in sufficient quantities. I want to emphasize this that for the first time in the history of the existence of nuclear missile weapons, including the Soviet period, and modern times, we are not catching anyone, but on the contrary, other leading states of the world have yet to create the weapons that Russia already possesses. The country's defense capability has been ensured for decades to come,” the president said.

According to him, reliable security creates the basis for the progressive, peaceful development of Russia, allow you to do much more to solve the most pressing domestic issues, to focus on the economic, social growth of all regions in the interests of people.

That, in fact, is all that relates to the international part of Putin’s message.


But basically the Russian president spoke for more than an hour precisely about the interests of the country's citizens, about ways to solve problems in the demographic, social, and economic spheres. Let us dwell on some key statements on these issues.

Vladimir Putin emphasized that he was addressing the Federal Assembly for the first time at the beginning of the year for the reason that it was necessary, without delay, to resolve issues that had accumulated in the country and society, to respond to the requests of people who want change and development.

Russia has entered an unfavourable demographic period associated with the creation of families by a small generation of the 1990s. In this regard, and also taking into account the low income level of families with children, a whole package of social support measures is needed. Starting this year, the state, Putin said, will pay extra to families with children under the age of three, whose total income does not exceed twice the cost of living.

Also, from the beginning of the year, monthly payments will be provided for children aged three to seven years. These payments will be received by families whose incomes do not exceed one living wage per person.

The maternity capital program will also undergo a certain reform, which will be extended until 2026, and the money itself will be provided already at the birth of the first child. According to Putin, in 2024 the birth rate should reach 1.7 instead of the current 1.5.

Speaking about the health care system, the president dwelt in detail on its weakest link - primary, as well as on solving the problem of specialists in this field. Putin said regional programs to modernize primary health care will be launched on July 1.

The president drew particular attention to the fact that the state had a surplus budget and macroeconomic stability, as well as low inflation. However, according to him, it is necessary to achieve economic growth rates that should be higher than world ones. For this, it is necessary to increase investments, not to change the tax conditions for business and to reform the control and supervision system. Another priority is the development of artificial intelligence and digital technology. In these areas, according to Putin, the same breakthrough is possible as in the field of defense.

As expected, in his message, the Russian president dwelt on the upcoming 75th anniversary of WWII.

“For Russia, May 9 is the greatest and holiest holiday. We are proud of the generation of winners, honor their feat, and our memory is not only a huge tribute to the heroic past - it serves our future, inspires us, strengthens our unity. We are obliged to defend the truth about the victory; otherwise what will we say to our children if a lie, like an infection, spreads all over the world? Insolent lies, in trying to rewrite history, we must contrast the facts. In Russia, the largest and most complete set of archival documents, film and photo materials on the Second World War will be created, accessible to both our citizens and the whole world. Such work is our duty as a victorious country and responsibility to future generations,” Putin said. 

Amendments to constitution

We can move towards this goal only with the active participation of society, our citizens and, of course, intense and productive work of all branches and levels of government, the potential of which should be expanded.
In this regard, I would like to spend a moment discussing state structure and domestic policy, which are defined by the Fundamental Law of our country – the constitution of the Russian Federation. I keep getting these questions all the time, including at the most recent annual news conference.

Clearly, we cannot but agree with those who say that the constitution was adopted over 25 years ago amidst a severe internal political crisis, and the state of affairs has completely overturned since then. Thank goodness, there is no more armed confrontation in the capital or a hotbed of international terrorism in the North Caucasus.

Despite a number of acute unsolved problems that we talked about today, the socio-economic situation has stabilized, after all. Today some public political associations are raising the issue of adopting a new constitution.

I want to answer straight off: I believe there is no need for this. Potential of the 1993 constitution is far from being exhausted, and I hope that pillars of our constitutional system, rights and freedoms will remain the foundation of strong values for the Russian society for decades to come.

In the meantime, statements regarding changes to the constitution have already been made. And I find it possible to express my view and propose a number of constitutional amendments for discussion, amendments that, in my opinion, are reasonable and important for the further development of Russia as a rule-of-law welfare state where citizens’ freedoms and rights, human dignity and wellbeing constitute the highest value.

Firstly, Russia can be and can remain Russia only as a sovereign state. Our nation’s sovereignty must be unconditional. We have done a great deal to achieve this. We restored our state’s unity. We have overcome the situation when certain powers in the government were essentially usurped by oligarch clans. Russia has returned to international politics as a country whose opinion cannot be ignored.

We created powerful reserves, which multiplies our country’s stability and capability to protect its citizens’ social rights and the national economy from any attempts of foreign pressure.

I truly believe that it is time to introduce certain changes to our country’s main law, changes that will directly guarantee the priority of the Russian constitution in our legal framework.

What does it mean? It means literally the following: requirements of international law and treaties, as well as decisions of international bodies, can be valid on the Russian territory only to the point that they do not restrict the rights and freedoms of our people and citizens and do not contradict our constitution.

Second, I suggest formalizing at the constitutional level the obligatory requirements for those who hold positions of critical significance for national security and sovereignty. More precisely, the heads of the constituent entities, members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies, the prime minister and his/her deputies, federal ministers, heads of federal agencies and judges should have no foreign citizenship or residence permit or any other document that allows them to live permanently in a foreign state.

The goal and mission of state service are to serve the people, and those who enter this path must know that by doing this they inseparably connect their lives with Russia and the Russian people without any assumptions and allowances.

Requirements must be even stricter for presidential candidates. I suggest formalizing a requirement under which presidential candidates must have had permanent residence in Russia for at least 25 years and no foreign citizenship or residence permit and not only during the election campaign but at any time before it too, he opined.

I know that people are discussing the constitutional provision under which one person cannot hold the post of the President of the Russian Federation for two successive terms. I do not regard this as a matter of principle, but I nevertheless support and share this view, according to Putin.

I have already said before that our goal is to ensure high living standards and equal opportunities for all throughout the country. It is towards this goal that our national projects and development plans are aimed, the president said.

At the same time, you know about the problems to do with education, healthcare and other fields created by a divide between the federal and municipal authorities – I have pointed this out more than once. This divide and, at the same time, the complex system of powers are having a negative effect above all on the people.