Vladimir Putin: Hero, villain, tyrant, nationalist, liberator, conqueror. A man both extremely demonized and lionized. If you travel to any corner of the world, the people there are likely to have strong feelings about him. Whether they be positive or negative, there is one certainty, Putin is here to stay.
Putin has claimed the title of longest serving leader of Russia, even surpassing Joseph Stalin. Rising to power in 1999 as prime minister turned acting president and serving as president until 2008, serving as prime minister again from 2008 to 2012, and reclaiming the presidency in 2012 and achieving re-election on 18 March 2018, Putin has ruled in the autocratic fashion of Russian leaders since Prince Vladimir of Kiev in 980.
Putin has also found himself in the position of boogeyman to the neoliberal and neoconservative establishments throughout the Western world with criticisms ranging from reasonable claims such as political repression in Russia to outrageous claims about being the puppetmaster of right-wing movements all across the world. This has led to a Second Cold War with the vast majority of the blame falling on the shoulders of Western leaders. From the eastward encroachment of NATO, to the scapegoating of Russia, and cries of aggression every time Russia finds itself in a territorial dispute, and even blaming them for the results of the US election, the West has spent the past quarter-century putting unnecessary pressure on the Russian state.
Despite all this, Putin has not only remained in power, but grown in popularity. The Russian standard of living has nearly tripled since his ascent to power. Under his leadership, GDP per capita went from 1,330.95 USD in 1999 to 14,125.91 USD in 2014, growing by over 10 times in 15 years. Diplomatically, he has taken Russia back to a status of a major power by solidifying ties with China as well as courting rising nations such as India. The West must realize that, not despite, but because of his strongman leadership style, he has won the hearts and minds of the Russian people and will rule the mighty bear of the east for the foreseeable future.
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