Putin’s approval rating is 83 percent despite various military excursions and a stagnant economy
by MATTHEW GAULT
In the West people tend to think of Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strongman dictator, a former KGB man who oppresses his people, censors the media and antagonizes Russia’s neighbors. From the outside, it’s hard for anyone to understand how Putin stays in power … let alone stays popular.
And Putin is popular, pollsters put his approval rating at more than 80 percent. It makes perfect sense if you understand Russia. In America we tend to think Moscow, with its business, banking and government, as the heart of Russia. Muscovites, we think, are just like us. How could they stand behind a man like Putin?
But, just as New York City isn’t America, Moscow isn’t Russia. To understand Putin’s appeal, you have to look beyond the Byzantine structures of the Kremlin to the vast swaths of land that make up the body politic of the Russian Federation.
This week on War College, we sit down with longtime Russia correspondent for NPR Anne Garrels. Garrels spent years reporting on both the Soviet Union and its successors. Since the collapse of the USSR, Garrels has spent more and more time in smaller Russian cities and towns, getting to know people who don’t live the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the country’s capital.
She knows why Russians love Putin and her answers may surprise you.