This, too, is crucial to understanding why Putin acts as he does, and how he is likely to think about new campaigns against the United States. The Kremlin’s direction of the press, the close eye it keeps on polls and approval numbers, and especially its foreign policy—they all exist to buttress Putin’s legitimacy, to curry favor with his 144 million subjects. It’s a complicated, hiccuping feedback loop designed to guarantee that Putin’s authoritarian rule remains popular and unthreatened.
This is why Putin insists on having elections, even if the result is always predictable. “Without renewing the mandate, the system can’t survive,” Chesnakov said. “According to polls, two-thirds of Russians don’t want a monarchy. They want a democracy. But they have a different sense of it than Americans and Europeans.”
Putin’s third presidential term is up in the spring of 2018. He didn’t bother to declare that he’d run for reelection until
... read more at: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/putins-game/546548/