Is Vladimir Putin the most popular Russian leader of all time?
It certainly looks like it. In a recent survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Putin’s public approval rating soared to an eye-popping 86 percent, which is twice that of Obama’s when he left office in 2016. And what’s more surprising is that Putin’s popularity has held up through a severe economic slump and nearly two decades in office. Unlike most politicians, whose shelf-life is somewhere between 4 to 8 years, the public’s admiration for Putin has only grown stronger over time.
And the phenom is not limited to Russia either. According to a recent survey by the pollster YouGov, “Putin is the third most admired man in Egypt, the fourth in China, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and the sixth most admired man in Germany, France and Sweden.” And don’t even mention Syria, where naming babies after the Russian president is all-the-rage.
Putin also won Time magazine’s prestigious Person of the Year award in 2007, and has remained among the top ten on that list for the last decade. The only place that Putin is not popular is in the United States where he is relentlessly demonized in the media as a “KGB thug” or the “new Hitler”. According to a 2017 survey by Gallup, only “22% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Putin” while “72% hold an unfavorable opinion of him.”
There’s no doubt that the media’s personal attacks on Putin have dramatically impacted his popularity. The question that open-minded people must ask themselves, is whether their opinion of Putin is the result of their own research or if their views have been shaped by a vicious, corporate-owned media that denigrates anyone who stands in the way of Washington’s geopolitical ambitions? My advice to these people is to simply read Putin’s words for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
The western media claims that Putin is responsible for a number of crimes including the killing of well-known journalists and political rivals. But is it true? Is the man, who is so revered by the vast majority of Russians, a common Mafia hitman who snuffs out his enemies without batting an eye?
I can’t answer that, but having followed Putin’s career (and read many of his speeches) since he replaced Boris Yeltsin in December 1999, I think it’s highly unlikely. The more probable explanation is that Russia’s foreign policy has created insurmountable hurtles for Washington in places like Ukraine and Syria, so Washington has directed its propaganda ministry (aka– the media) to smear Putin as an evil tyrant and a thug. At least that’s the way the media has behaved in the past.
The US political class loved Yeltsin, of course, because Yeltsin was a compliant buffoon who eviscerated the state and caved in to all the demands of the western corporations. Not so Putin, who has made great strides in rebuilding the country by nationalizing part of the oil industry, asserting his authority over the oligarchs, and restoring the power of the central government.
More important, Putin has repeatedly condemned Washington’s unilateral war-mongering around the world, in fact, the Russian president has become the de facto leader of a growing resistance movement whose primary goal is to stop Washington’s destabilizing regime change wars and rebuild global security on the bedrock principle of national sovereignty. Here’s how Putin summed it up at Valdai:
“We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at the national and international levels…First of all, there must be equal and indivisible security for all states.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, ” The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow, From the Office of the President of Russia)
This is a familiar theme with Putin and one that goes back to his famous Munich manifesto in 2007, a speech that anyone with even the slightest interest in foreign affairs should read in full. Here’s an excerpt:
“We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?….”
“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue.” (“Wars not diminishing’: Putin’s iconic 2007 Munich speech, you tube)
The Munich speech was delivered a full four years after Washington launched its bloody invasion of Iraq, an invasion that Putin bitterly opposed. The speech shows a maturity of thought on Putin’s part who, unlike other world leaders, isn’t quick to judge or draw hasty conclusions. Instead, he takes his time, analyzes a situation thoroughly, and then acts accordingly. Once he’s made up his mind, he rarely wavers. He’s not a flip flopper.
Putin’s opposition to unipolar world rule, that is, Washington dictating policy and everyone else falling in line, is not a sign of anti-Americanism, but pragmatism. Washington’s 16 year-long rampage across Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, has only intensified crises, fueled instability, bred terrorism, and increased the death and destruction. There have been no victories in the War on Terror, just endless violence and mountains of carnage. On top of that (as Putin says) “No one feels safe.”
This is why Putin has drawn a line in the sand in Syria and Ukraine. The Russian president has now committed troops and military aircraft to stop Washington’s aggressive behavior. Once again, this is not because he hates America or seeks a confrontation, but because Washington’s support for violent extremists requires a firm response. There’s no other way. At the same time, Moscow continues to actively seek a peaceful settlement for both crises. Here’s Putin again:
“Only after ending armed conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries will we be able to talk about economic progress and the resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems….
It is essential to provide conditions for creative labour and economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all. Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst contemporary problems.”…
Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world today by investing in all priority areas of human development.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club)