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The Perspective on Putin

By Kira Goldring
 Photo credit: Dimitro Sevastopol from Pixabay
*Updated 2024
Vladimir Putin has been Russia’s dominant political leader since the turn of the millennia. His most recent re-election has secured him a fifth six-year term, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Despite most of the world disagreeing with his current war in Ukraine as well as other not-so-current military decisions, Putin still maintains majority support from Russians. Over the decades, he has repeatedly been referred to as either the or one of the most powerful people in the world; he has certainly earned a reputation as a bold, effective leader unafraid of standing up to the West. Whether for good or bad, he does wield influence.
Below, we’ll explore three reasons that support the positive aspects of Putin’s leadership and three reasons claiming that his actions in office have ranged from questionable to nefarious.


Putin has been a positive influence


He established order in an unstable region

As Mikhail Gorbachev’s death in 2022 highlighted, after the fall of the Soviet Union, what Russia most needed was stability and security. Putin stepped in, raised a shaky country off its feet, and got it to stand on solid ground. During his first two terms as president, Russia’s GDP increased by 70%, and investments rose by 125%. His many domestic reforms – such as tax cuts and expansion of property rights – further provided Russia with the stability it was looking for. Aside from giving his people someone to believe in, he made active changes that resulted in a much stronger, more secure country than it had been for decades.


He sticks to his guns

It’s clear that Putin refuses to be bullied. He has repeatedly stood up to Western hegemony, as evidenced by his decision to invade Ukraine in response to recent and ongoing NATO expansion and, similarly, by his 2014 decision to annex Crimea, both against Western wishes. Even after being hit with economic sanctions, both back then and now, he won’t back down; international sanctions seem to fuel nationalistic pride. Even today, most Russians see the brutal war in Ukraine as a defense against the West. Putin is seen by his people as putting Russian interests at the forefront of his decisions, regardless of whom he aggravates in the process. Although it may be infuriating for other world powers, this refusal to be intimidated is an important quality for a country of millions to see in its leader, and it has, in the past, elevated Russia’s status in the world order.


He has the trust and vote of his people

He comes from a humble, ordinary family and worked hard to get where he is, which may explain his appeal among his constituents. He has been voted into office as president again and again (and again, etc.). Over the decades, he has won the majority of the votes in each of his five elections. Sure, talk of rigged voting permeates each election but the majority of Russians have maintained their support of Putin, even throughout the Ukraine war and whispers of foul play regarding his opposition. No matter what the world says and thinks of him, Putin remains stronger than ever domestically.


He has managed to keep day-to-day life relatively unchanged for most of his countrymen even under the shadow of international sanctions. Similarly, 94% of Russians supported the 2014 annexation of Crimea. They also supported the war with Chechnya, which occurred when Putin was still establishing himself as president. His predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, once said that the public’s confidence in Putin is because “people believed that he, personally, could protect them.”


Putin is on a power trip


His character is shady

As a former member of the KGB, Putin still shrouds parts of himself in secrecy and has done a number of questionable-bordering-illicit things. Putin has faced evidence-based accusations of meddling in both the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections. What’s more, he’s previously been voted “Person of the Year” by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project, due to his alleged engagement with the mafia to launder money and promote interests abroad.


Additionally, suspicious deaths seem to happen to people who oppose Putin or try to expose political corruption. Prior to the recent death in an Arctic prison of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, others who have publicly criticized Putin for a myriad of reasons, ranging from corruption to Ukraine to his coronavirus response, have died of mysterious illnesses or by “accidental” falls from windows. A notable incident also occurred in 2018 that involved the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter, while both were in England. Though Putin denies any connection, such cases don’t make for a trustworthy resume. Nor do media reports assert that he’s not only aware of but lauds acts of torture being carried out at the hands of his soldiers in Ukraine.


Russia needs help at home

While a powerful player in the world game, Putin is lacking when it comes to managing Russia’s current domestic affairs. For example, the current average life expectancy for men in Russia is around 72 years. While this is a record high, it fuels the need for more social protection for older adults. There is poor quality of air and water in many areas, hurting the overall health of the nation, with limited resources allocated to preventative healthcare. Also, the country’s economy is largely dependent on the price of oil – which is dangerous given the Biden administration’s 500+ sanctions in addition to the hundreds of other sanctions imposed on the country by the EU, UK and other countries, which are intended to curb its exports of oil and minerals in addition to freezing its currency reserves. While support for Putin may be high at home, it doesn’t mean he’s giving his people what they need.


More a corrupt czar than a president

Thanks to economic sanctions and too much faith in oil, 13.5 million Russians are living below the poverty line. Yet Putin may be the richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $200 billion to his name. What kind of leader is rolling in such dough when the people who follow him have trouble affording bread? Politically, Putin’s tactics to mitigate the opposition’s chances in municipal elections in Moscow in 2019 prompted allegations of him corrupting democracy. This corruption is seemingly nothing new for the leader. As a way to retain a tight grip on power, in 2021, Putin signed into law a controversial bill that allows for constitutional changes that may help him remain in power until 2036. Additionally, journalists have regularly been jailed to be silenced; under Putin, the press is anything but free.


The Bottom Line: Popular among many of his own people and frightening to almost everyone else, Putin is both respected and suspicious in his political and personal dealings. What do you think? Has Putin been a strong world leader, or is he a corrupt politician with war crimes to answer for?

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