ECPS Academy – Summer School 2022: “Russia’s populist discourse and its Invasion of Ukraine: Challenges for the EU” by Dr Neil Robinson

This lecture examines how populism developed from within the Russian political system under Vladimir Putin. Official populism was a response to perceived threats to the Putin regime after the 2008 economic crisis. It developed as a means of redefining legitimate political agency during the 2012 presidential election and informed the development of the Russian political system after 2012. This official populism was used to create regime supporting ideological tropes, by ‘othering’ the West and liberalism in particular. It was not, however, a means of developing an agenda for economic development. The success of official populism was therefore largely temporary in terms of social mobilization, except for a period around the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Although its political efficacy was not as total as the regime hoped Russia’s populist discourse did create discursive ‘traps’ that impelled Russia towards war against Ukraine. We will discuss these and how they will complicate relations between Russia and the West for the foreseeable future no matter what the resolution of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

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