In presenting the latest Levada Center poll on Russian attitudes toward the West, the center’s Aleksey Grazhdankin says that a majority of Russians think that the initiative for improving East-West ties should come from the West and “do not understand why the actions of their country in Ukraine” have produced such anger in Western countries, Paul Goble reports:
Grazhdankin’s analysis needs to be remembered given that it is a certainty many Moscow and Western outlets will highlight only one finding of the poll: 71 percent of Russians now want better relations with the West, 21 percent more than a year ago and close to the highest level ever (76 percent in 2000).
Vladimir V. Putin has used Russian power more boldly than any leader, Russian or Soviet, in many decades, notes Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:
In the last 10 years, he has doubled military spending, renovated his armed forces and deployed them abroad. His international exploits — especially the seizure of Crimea in 2014 — have brought him near-absolute political dominance at home. He has fashioned new tools (from cyberhacking to a lavishly funded propaganda machine) for meddling in other countries’ affairs. He mocks Western governments as weak and hypocritical, and seems to enjoy his role as bad-boy statesman.
But there’s another Putin, too: the one who knows his country is entering the third year of a recession, one of the worst recent performances among major economies, he writes for The New York Times. With foreign direct investment in Russia down 90 percent in three years, future growth will be slow. Mr. Putin himself has said major reforms are needed. But he has not proposed any. How can he? Real reform would threaten the systemic corruption on which Putinism rests, notes Sestanovich, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.