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Can Putin Fix Russia’s Sputtering Economy?

Why Stagnation Is the New Normal

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, February 2019 Mikhail Klimentyev / Kremlin via REUTERS

“Blatant disrespect” for Russia’s government can now land you in jail, under a new law the country’s legislature has passed. Worried that Russians are increasingly inclined to criticize the state or protest against it, the government is tightening the screws.

Public support for the Kremlin and for Russian President Vladimir Putin has slumped in recent months. The government’s popularity had spiked after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014, catapulting Putin’s approval rating to near 80 percent, where it remained for nearly five years. Yet that political magic is wearing thin. Over the past six months, Putin’s rating has crashed. True, the most recent poll by the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization, suggests that 64 percent of Russians continue to approve of Putin’s work as president. Yet that is the lowest number since 2013, when Putin returned to the presidency amid anti-regime protests.

THE KREMLIN’S EMPTY PROMISES

Russia’

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