NEW YORK – With the Russian military in retreat from around Kyiv and facing condemnation for brutal tactics, harsh political repression at home and the economy buffeted by Western sanctions, adversaries and allies alike are raising the same question about President Vladimir Putin: Can he hold onto power?
The answer: For now, but maybe not forever.
After 22 years in power, Putin has built a powerful phalanx of loyalists who surround him, both in the Russian military and the secret services. He also has significant support among the Russian people, who are steeped in pro-Putin propaganda through the Russian leader’s almost total control of television and other mass communication. Even today, many Russians view his leadership as having delivered greater prestige, prosperity and stability for the country over two decades.
This edifice of protection, the vast wealth Putin controls and the lack of any significant history of palace coups…