How does Russia see itself in the world today?
Vladimir Putin’s sees himself on an historical mission to restore Russian greatness. His intention isn’t to bring back the Soviet Union; rather he wants Russia to play a leading role on the world stage, as it did during the Cold War. He wants to challenge, as he sees it, US hegemony – hence Russia’s stance on Syria
Is Russia’s suspicion of the West justified?
No. After 13 years in power Putin has grown increasingly detached from reality. He is convinced the unprecedented street protests against his rule aren’t due to popular discontent but are an American plot. More and more Putin lives in a world of fantasy and KGB paranoia.
Notwithstanding recent demonstrations, what explains the persistence of Putin’s popular appeal?
During his first two presidential terms Putin tapped into a mood of popular unhappiness with the 1990s, when capitalism impoverished many Russians and the country lost self-respect. Third time round he has alienated educated voters in Moscow and St Petersburg. The provinces are dissatisfied too
What opposition, if any, does Putin face within the Russian government?
Many political analysts believe the Kremlin is divided into two rival factions: hardline nationalists or ‘siloviki’ who favour state control and ‘liberals’ who want greater economic integration with the West. In reality there are few ideological differences. The elite’s key concern is to hold on to its assets.
Is ‘authoritarian capitalism’, as you describe the system in Putin’s Russia,working?
No. The system works for a few beneficiaries at the top, who have become billionaires. But most of the country has seen only modest improvements in living standards. The Russian countryside is dying. Young talented Russians are leaving. Putin has no fresh ideas. Russia faces stagnation similar to the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev.