Russia’s Election Drama: Putin’s Next 6 Years in Power

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As Vladimir Putin gears up for another six-year stint as Russia’s president, the electoral contest witnesses drama. Reportedly, it is his post-election actions that are capturing attention and sparking concerns among many observers.

The upcoming voting, which is set to conclude, is expected to secure Putin’s position until 2030, granting him a total of three decades leading Russia as either president or prime minister. With such a lengthy tenure and the effective suppression of domestic opposition, Putin wields a formidable—and possibly unrestrained—influence.

Putin’s position is fortified by the Russian economy’s unexpected endurance despite extensive Western sanctions following the Ukraine invasion.

Additionally, Moscow’s gradual but consistent advances on the battlefield in recent months, diminishing support for military aid to Kyiv from the United States and elsewhere, and growing skepticism in some Western countries regarding progressive social attitudes, all align with Putin’s promotion of traditional values.

Putin would enter a new term with few apparent limitations, potentially resulting in the swift implementation of significant new measures.

One of the most unpopular decisions he could make domestically would be to initiate a second military mobilization for Ukraine. The first mobilization in September 2022 led to protests, and many Russians fled to evade conscription. Despite its unpopularity, a second mobilization might offer some relief to the families of soldiers drafted 18 months ago. There are those in Russia who see this as a possibility.

Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser at the RAND Corporation think tank, observed that Russian leaders are discussing the idea of “consolidating the whole of Russian society around its defense needs.” He explained that while the exact interpretation of this phrase is uncertain, it implies that Russia’s leadership acknowledges the prolonged nature of the conflict described by Putin, necessitating the mobilization of resources. He added that Russian society must be structured to endure perpetual warfare.

However, according to Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, Putin may not require a mobilization, as many Russians from economically disadvantaged regions have volunteered to join the fight in exchange for higher wages, surpassing what they can earn in their limited opportunities at home.

Stanovaya further added Putin’s evident belief that the tide of the war is shifting in Russia’s favor is expected to reinforce his insistence that the conflict can only be resolved through Ukraine’s participation in negotiations.

Although support for Ukraine is lacking in Washington, recent statements from French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski suggest that deploying troops to support Kyiv is at least being considered as a hypothetical possibility.

Alexandra Vacroux, executive director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, anticipates that Russia will test NATO’s commitment to Article 5 in the coming years. Putin’s strategy prioritizes weakening NATO’s cohesion rather than military superiority, aiming to exploit vulnerabilities. Vacroux suggests that by testing Article 5, Putin seeks to demonstrate NATO’s ineffectiveness if met with a lukewarm or ambiguous response.

While not part of NATO, Moldova is increasingly anxious about potential Russian aggression. After Ukraine’s invasion, crises in Moldova have sparked fears in its capital, Chisinau. The Transnistria region, with Russian peacekeepers, seeks Moscow’s “protection” amid alleged Moldovan pressure.

Stanovaya suggested that Putin does not personally initiate repressive measures but rather sanctions actions proposed by others, presuming they align with his intentions.

Last year, Russia banned the LGBTQ+ movement, deeming it extremist in defense of traditional values, as advocated by the Russian Orthodox Church, against Western influence. Additionally, courts also prohibited gender transitioning. Ben Noble, an associate professor at University College London, anticipates continued repression against the LGBTQ+ community under a new Putin term.

Google Search utilizes generative AI capabilities to assist users in purchasing items for specific occasions, while Walmart is experimenting with similar technology to enhance the search process, focusing on providing solution-driven experiences. Despite these developments, the perceived threat to Google is minimal, considering its widespread utility across various aspects of users’ lives. Meanwhile, Walmart is actively positioning itself as an innovative leader within the industry, leveraging advancements in technology to strengthen its competitive edge.

Google Search’s generative AI features enable users to buy items for special events like the Super Sunday match in the English Premier League. However, this might require users to navigate through multiple web pages. Walmart aims to streamline this process by providing a convenient one-stop shopping solution, saving users time.

As per a CNBC report, Walmart is developing a feature harnessing generative AI to provide a comprehensive solution for all requirements, rather than merely serving as an online platform to search for individual items.

During a discussion with analysts following its February earnings, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon elaborated on this feature within its application.

McMillon expressed his excitement about the notable improvement in search functionality and the significant role generative AI played in enhancing a solution-driven search experience for customers and members. He emphasized on the swift pace at which these advancements occurred.

Sucharita Kodali, Forrester’s Vice President and Principal Analyst, suggested that Flipkart-owner Walmart had the freedom to experiment with incorporating generative AI search capabilities due to the minimal risk associated with potential failures.

Kodali further remarked that it positions them as innovators within the industry, emphasizing the advantage of leading rather than following in their current position of strength.


Google is not facing an existential threat

According to the analyst, Google’s threat isn’t existential because people heavily depend on Google for various purposes beyond party planning. Furthermore, introducing AI in one area to compete with Google’s entire business might not significantly impact the company.

Kodali noted that individuals develop a habit of relying on Google for all their needs. She pointed out that apart from shopping, approximately 90% of searches encompass various other aspects. She further added that unless Amazon and Walmart were going to enter into the business of the other 90% of the searches, it was unlikely they would pose a significant threat to Google.

Meanwhile, Google has integrated generative AI into its search platform and is actively refining the search experience. Additionally, it is investing in Google Cloud’s Vertex AI Search specifically tailored for retail purposes.

Google is being swamped with ads for incredibly cheap products by Temu, the international arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo. Similarly, as it gears up for its initial public offering, fast-fashion retailer Shein is flooding Instagram with ads for clothing and accessories at rock-bottom prices.

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