President-elect Donald Trump could be seeing a lot of Russian President Vladimir Putin during his time in the White House. The proportion of Russians who want Putin to continue leading their country beyond the 2018 presidential election has risen to a four-year high of 63 percent, according to a recent poll.
The figure, attained by an opinion poll from the independent Levada Center and reported by Russia Today on Wednesday, is up from just 34 percent shortly after Putin won a third presidential term in 2012. The poll found 18 percent were not in favor of the 64-year-old going on to serve a fourth term when the presidential election is held in 16 months’ time. Russia Today, or RT, is part of the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
The surge in Putin’s popularity can in large part be attributed to what has been termed the “Crimea effect,” which is the positive reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Mikhail Vinogradov of the St. Petersburg told Russian media. The Ukrainian territory was seized by pro-Russian troops in 2014 shortly after the removal of then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.
On Wednesday, a United Nations committee approved a resolution condemning what it called Russia’s “temporary occupation” of Crimea. NATO struck a similar tone this week, stating that Crimea remains an obstacle to future talks.
“The message from NATO has been that we want dialogue with Russia," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. "Russia is our biggest neighbor, Russia is there to stay and especially when tensions run high and especially when we face many different security challenges, it is important to have dialogue.
"[But] we will never respect or accept the violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
However, comments on the campaign trail from Trump have provoked anxiety for European leaders. Trump has suggested that he may accept Russia’s authority over Crimea.
In a phone call between Trump and Putin on Monday, the Kremlin said that they "agreed to assess the current very poor state of Russian-American relations." Putin purportedly pledged "dialogue with the new administration on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other."
In the last Russian presidential election four years ago, Putin won with 63.6 percent of the vote. However, tens of thousands later took to the streets to protest at what they claimed was an unfair election.
The Russian constitution prevents a president from serving more than two consecutive terms, a restriction Putin sidestepped in 2008 when being appointed to serve as prime minister.