khrushcheva119_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Image_putinerdoganpipeline Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin’s Pipelines to Power

Whereas 61% of Russians rate Vladimir Putin’s performance positively, fewer than 43% of Americans approve of Donald Trump. In fact, the same incoherent US policies that have contributed to Trump’s unpopularity have fueled Putin’s popularity, by handing him a series of tactical victories.

MOSCOW – Over the last year, predictions of serious struggles for Russian President Vladimir Putin – or even his political demise – have been increasingly frequent. A recent article in The Economist, “An awful week for Vladimir Putin,” is just one example. But it is Putin biographer and New York Times correspondent Steven Lee Myers whose assessment rings most true: “Putin,” Myers has repeatedly said to me, “always wins.”

Maybe “always” isn’t quite true. Russia’s economy is expected to grow by only 1% this year, owing to lagging export diversification, large-scale capital flight, and low levels of foreign direct investment linked to Western sanctions imposed after the country’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. As a result, Putin’s approval rating has declined somewhat from its annexation-fueled high of 83% in July 2014.

But 61% of Russians still rate Putin’s performance positively. Most democratic leaders can only dream of such favor with the public. Fewer than 43% of Americans approve of President Donald Trump, for example. In fact, the same incoherent and combative US policies toward Europe, China, Turkey, and others that have contributed to Trump’s unpopularity have fueled Putin’s popularity, by handing him a series of tactical victories.

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