Good afternoon, Mr. president. My name is Artyom Baranov. Thank you very much for your warm words, for joining us in our celebration, and congratulating us on the 85th anniversary of our plant. Today, at the volunteers' forum, someone asked you if you are going to run for president, and you said that if the people want you to, then you would. Everyone in this audience, without exception, supports you. Mr. president, do us a favor. Announce your decision now. After all, we are for you. GAZ is for you.
It was straight out of the Soviet playbook; the efficient and patriotic assembly of talented industrial workers asking the longtime statesman to continue his national service. Performing his part with humility, Vladimir Putin recognized his duty to keep serving and accepted the kind invitation.
"Thank you. Thank you very much." he said, "Indeed, there is probably no better place or better occasion for announcing this. Thank you for your support. I will be a candidate for the office of President of the Russian Federation."
Retaining huge popularity, Putin seems set to remain Russia's president until at least 2024. At that point, Putin will have been Russia's effective ruler for 24 years and its president for 20 of those years. The other candidates facing Putin consist of a psychopath, a communist, and a TV celebrity. The only serious opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been banned from standing.
That said, it's not surprising that Putin wants to stay in office.
With unprecedented power at home, increasing success in shaping global politics and no significant political opposition, Putin has the means to consolidate a legacy that lasts for decades.
Of course, for the U.S., this announcement is another sign that we'll need to remain committed to countering the Russian challenge.
After all, that's ultimately what Putin is to America: a challenge. From the Middle East to Europe, Putin seeks to fray the power of democratic governments and degrade the rule of law. And he seeks an America that is rendered subservient and scared. None of those outcomes is in the interest of the American people or the people of the world.
We shouldn't stand idle as the tsar pursues his ambitions.