Vladimir Putin’s Victory in the 2024 Election: What Does It Mean for the War in Ukraine?

President Vladimir Putin extended his reign over Russia in a landslide election held on March 15-17, 2024, taking approximately 87% of the vote, the most in the nation’s history. The outcome of the Russian presidential election conveyed a message of a unified and stronger Russia under the reign of Vladimir Putin which was resilient against the myriad Western sanctions and economic pressures. There is little change in the economy of Russia more than two years after the start of the war in Ukraine and despite the broad sanctions that have cut off much of Russia’s trade with the West; Vladimir Putin benefits from the perception of stability.

Putin has cantered his campaign around his promise to carry out his objectives in Ukraine, characterizing the war as a struggle between the West and Russia. In his Victory Speech, Putin declared he would “carry out everything as planned” after winning and reaffirmed his commitment to carrying out the “special military operation.” Hence, he is expected to use his fifth term to pursue his current political goals, including the war in Ukraine more unyieldingly than ever before. Besides, the Russian military is moving forward despite losses, and Ukraine faces the grave possibility of a conflict in which a vital military alliance with the United States is at stake due to its upcoming presidential election in November 2024. Against such a backdrop, the question is what effect will Vladimir Putin’s six more years in office have on the conflict in Ukraine?

More military conscription?

Since 2022, Russia has not shown any fatigue in the war and will pursue its goal of continuing the war without any compromises. Now that the election is over and Russian President Vladimir Putin has secured another term, Russia can carry out mobilization more openly. Putin’s re-election following the elections may give Russia less reason to be concerned about internal opposition, allowing for more open mobilization. Russia is recruiting for its new 44th Army Corps in an attempt to expand its armed forces. Russian Défense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Mach 20 that the Russian Armed Forces will create two new combined arms armies, 14 divisions, and 16 brigades by the end of the year. “We will continue to strengthen the Russian military proportionately to emerging threats to our country’s security,” he said.

Putin also addressed the emergence of a new national elite in his speech, highlighting the need for people who participated in the war or otherwise enthusiastically supported it to be given privileged positions in society or the government. Russian forces currently hold the upper hand in the more than two-year-old mass invasion of Ukraine. They are pushing forward against Ukrainian forces, capitalizing on the symbolic victory of taking control of the industrial city of Avdiyivka last month. President Putin isn’t backing down from his military rhetoric which indicates a prolonged war. From the Kremlin’s perspective, it can be seen that Western support for Ukraine is not as strong as perhaps it should be,” which offers a chance to try and tip the scales in its favor through a fresh round of mass mobilization.

Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin isn’t backing down from continuing the war in Ukraine, this is seen as a plausible scenario Putin pledged to elevate his troops, who are currently fighting in Ukraine, to the rank of Russia’s elite. President Putin also addressed the emergence of a new national elite in his speech, highlighting the need for people who participated in the war or otherwise enthusiastically supported it to be given privileged positions in society or the government. The Russian military will unavoidably become more influential in Russian politics. The perceived national unity behind the war effort provides Putin with a mandate to increase mobilization to make decisive advances in Ukraine that could pressure the country into capitulation.

A Prolonged War is Footing

The resounding re-election of Russian President Vladimir Putin was met with condemnation from the West as unfair and undemocratic; however, China, India, and North Korea commended the veteran leader for extending his rule by a further six years. The European Council announced that it had decided to create a new Ukraine Assistance Fund and provide military aid to Ukraine totalling 5 billion euros, or $5.44 billion.

However, Russia is thinking about what will happen in the US after November. Trump’s election victory could be more consequential for Russia in a different way. His return to power would mean the American public has decided to take the path of inward-looking, and of national and corporate interests explicitly trumping values at all times. This would signal a new era for the rest of the world, especially for Europe. With potential Republican nominee Donald Trump stating he could end the conflict in an afternoon and President Joe Biden continuing to lament an increasingly elusive victory, the war in Ukraine is already shaping up to be a major issue in the US during the upcoming presidential election. Hence, it will give Putin a chance to end this war on his terms.

Global South Remains a Factor

After the economy unexpectedly collapsed due to sanctions imposed by the US and EU in response to the war in Ukraine, Russia’s central bank and financial policymakers managed to restore stability. Additionally, inflation is managed. Nevertheless, Putin has benefited from the Russian “war economy,” which has grown at a rate of more than 3% and performed as well as, if not better, than their Western counterparts. The GDP appears to have increased by over 11 times to $2.2 trillion during his 24 years in office and the debt-to-GDP ratio decreased from 92% to 23% of GDP.

One of the crucial factors in Russia’s resilience against the Western myriad sanctions is its increasing relationship with the Global South particularly with China. As long as Putin tends to maintain the relationship with emerging powers of the Global South, it will provide him an opportunity to deal with Western economic sanctions and pressures. By reiterating his firm control over Russian politics, Putin’s election victory will strengthen Moscow’s ties with China, India, and other countries in the Global South. Putin is now prepared for a protracted battle that might last for several years, even decades. Russia is spending an estimated 7.5% of its GDP on military expenditures, the most since the end of the Cold War. As a result of the government’s extravagant spending, factories that produce weapons, ammunition, and military equipment are working double or triple-shift patterns.

After much anticipation, Ukraine launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces in the country’s south in the early days of June 2023. Its primary objectives were the southern Donetsk region and Zaporizhzhia. However, the counteroffensive strategy by Ukraine failed last year, he claims that Russian forces have the upper hand and that the West and Ukraine will “sooner or later” have to accept a settlement on Moscow’s terms.

With the Victory of Putin, Russia has emerged as stronger than ever before and is determined to continue its battle against Ukraine. The negotiations will be more difficult as Putin will not be ready to give up easily if the negotiations do not follow his terms. On the flip side, Ukraine is in a fragile situation following the upcoming US election in November which will be one of the ultimate deciding factors for the future of Ukraine war and the rest of the world.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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