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.
This week on War College, we sit down with Anne Garrels, a longtime Russia correspondent for NPR. 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.
Garrels gives the reasons why Russians love Putin, and why it’s in the best interests of the West to understand them.