But let us turn to the first lie in that opening sentence, that Putin is being elected on March 18. There is no real selection taking place. When I retired from professional chess in 2005 to join the Russian pro-democracy movement against Putin, I was frequently asked how my chess experience might help me in politics. My answer was that it wouldn’t help much at all, because in chess we had fixed rules and uncertain results, while in Russian politics it was exactly the opposite. That is even truer today, when the rules are whatever the Kremlin decides that day, and the results have been known for years. The domain name “putin2018.ru” was registered in 2010, during the Obama administration’s infamous “Reset” with Russia and its dreams of Dmitry Medvedev liberalization. Putin2024.ru, putin2030.ru, and putin36.ru have also been locked up, in case you were wondering.
Putin will continue in power as if by birthright, and calling this an election soils the meaning of a word that should be treasured. Yet the media of the free world persist in referring to “elections” in dictatorships like Putin’s Russia because they have no vocabulary to call it anything else—a predicament undemocratic regimes exploit very well. Even calling Putin a “president” is at best inaccurate and abominable propaganda at worst. A president is “the elected head of a republican state” according to my dictionary, while Putin isn’t elected and Russia isn’t a republic. He may have been a president when he first came to power in 2000, that I will grant. But since 2012, when he returned to the presidency, unconstitutionally, after allowing Medvedev to warm the chair for four years while ceding none of his power, there has been no doubt at all that Putin should simply be called a dictator.