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Putin issues new warning for West in national address

Fox News correspondent Alex Hogan has more on U.S.-Russia relations and the Ukraine war on "Special Report."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to secure another term in office as president, and there is no doubt in the minds of Russians or observers around the world that Putin will cement his hold on power for at least another six years.

Putin is Russia’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and was first appointed prime minister 25 years ago in 1999 by then-President Boris Yeltsin. An ailing Yeltsin stepped down in 2000, handing the presidency to Putin, who briefly served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012 under then-President Dmitri Medevedev before returning to the presidency amid widespread protests and discontent.


“Vladimir Putin is planning to glide into reelection that will be neither free nor fair. We already know the winner of this election charade,” Ivana Stradner, research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital.

A poster in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol reads, “The West doesn’t need Russia. We need Russia.”  (Ulf Mauder/picture alliance via Getty Images/File)

U.S. intelligence is already saying that Russia will again attempt to interfere in the November presidential election, and information warfare remains Putin’s most effective tool to sow chaos and weaken the United States. Stradner, whose research focuses on Russian information security, argues that it’s time for the U.S. to start doing the same and interfering in Russian domestic elections to influence the outcome.

“It is time to turn [the] tables on Putin’s games and give him a taste of his own medicine,” Stradner said. She says the U.S. should use the opportunity to destabilize Putin’s regime as the Russian government has already accused the U.S. of attempting to interfere in their election. Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said the U.S. is finding sophisticated ways to influence Russia’s presidential election.


The U.S. State Department flatly rejected such assertions.

“The United States does not take sides in foreign elections; our only interest is in the democratic process. The Russian people deserve free and fair elections and the ability to choose among candidates,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Russians, like everyone else, deserve access to impartial information to help them choose the leadership and future direction of their country,” the spokesperson said.

A woman casts her ballot at her home in the village of Yersenevo on March 10, 2024, during early voting ahead of Russia’s presidential election. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)

Since taking power, Russia’s presidential elections are merely an administrative procedure, or at best an exercise in window dressing, to create the illusion that Putin is receiving a democratic mandate from the people to continue his rule, Stradner says.

Although the election is widely regarded as not free or fair in the sense that there is no legitimate political opposition to Putin and the outcome is almost guaranteed, that’s not to say that Putin doesn’t garner widespread support.


Russian election

People walk past a cardboard cutout of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 14, 2024. (Contributor/Getty Images)

“It’s important to clarify what ‘pre-determined’ really means when we talk about the upcoming Russian elections. Putin will almost certainly win another six-year term as Russia’s president in the upcoming election. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the election will be rigged in a sense that voter results will be manipulated,” Rebekah Koffler, strategic military intelligence analyst and former Defense Intelligence Agency official, told Fox News Digital.

Putin’s popularity is rooted in the belief that he has made Russians proud of their country again by facilitating economic growth following the turbulent 1990s and placing Russia as a great power on the world stage once again.

People clash with police during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Jan. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Russians voted in favor of a nationwide referendum in 2016 that allowed Putin to extend his stay in power until at least 2026. A public opinion poll recently conducted by Russian state news showed that 75% of Russians were prepared to vote for Putin’s reelection, and analysts project that Putin will win with around 80% support. There’s also no viable opposition candidate legitimately challenging Putin’s hold on power.

Putin’s most recent and fierce political opponent, Alexei Navalny, was recently found dead in a Siberian prison in what many consider a political assassination ordered by Putin. Even before his abrupt demise in February, Navalny had previously accused the Russian government of launching phony investigations and jailing him to tarnish his political career. Navalny also accused Kremlin agents of poisoning him in an episode in which he narrowly escaped death.


There’s also no independent media landscape to highlight some of the possible alternatives to Putin. Russian airwaves are flooded with nationalistic themes of Russia’s renewed greatness, especially as it prosecutes and makes gains in the “special military operation” that is its unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Bakmut fighting

Ukrainian soldiers fire a gun near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

Putin is looking to highlight some of his domestic policy achievements to showcase the country moving forward, while managing to convince the Russian public that the war in Ukraine is going according to plan and not something voters should worry about. 

Russian forces faced early setbacks in 2022, failing to take the capital, Kyiv, and topple the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Facing stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces and population, there was chatter that Putin was losing support from the war’s failure to make any gains. Despite a brief rebellion in July launched by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s mercenary Wager Group, Russian forces stalled Ukrainian counteroffensives in eastern Ukraine and even made small advancements in some places.

Biden meets Volodymyr Zelenskyy

President Biden meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci/Pool/File)

The unprecedented Western sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its coalition allies haven’t had the drastic impact on the economy that many policymakers had hoped for. Russia’s economy proved to be resilient, growing at 3.6% in 2023 after contracting during the first year of the war.

While Russia has remained resilient in more ways than many expected, the war has cost Russia $1.3 trillion in economic growth through 2026, according to a U.S. defense official. The Russian people are also still subject to many wartime hardships. The daily trauma and destruction hasn’t reached the borders of Russia in the way they have devastated Ukraine, but families are still losing loved ones.

Koffler predicts that once the election is done with “Putin will continue waging war on Ukraine until Zelenskyy capitulates or a peace deal is negotiated on Russia’s terms. Putin feels Russia is in a strong position, holding an overwhelming military and economic advantage over Ukraine. Russia will continue its cooperation with China, Iran and other traditional U.S. adversaries.”

She also warned that “Russian intelligence will likely run covert influence operations targeting U.S. elections to sow chaos and pit various American voter blocks against one another. Russian intelligence will probably also target Moldova with destabilization operations and may stir trouble in Kosovo after Russia’s election,” likely in the run-up to our presidential election here.


The Russian election begins on March 15. Voters will have a chance to cast their ballots through March 17, and early voting has already taken place in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory that Russia claims to have annexed in September 2022. Results are expected relatively soon after the polls close on Sunday.

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