Putin: Great Leader? Or Huge Failure?
By Shlomo Maital
U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has expressed admiration for the Russian President Vladimir Putin, comparing him favorably with Barak Obama and calling him a great leader. In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman adds up Putin’s achievements since he came to power in Russia in 1999.
He has destroyed Russian democracy, creating a handful of billionaire oligarchs who support him while destroying others who did not. He has utterly failed to diversify Russia’s economy out of oil and gas, even though the old Soviet Union left behind superbly educated people, including many thousands of engineers and scientists who emigrated to Israel beginning in 1990, and who fueled Israel’s high-tech boom. (Many, of course, did not emigrate, but their skills were not made use of – except for Putin’s global hacking operations).
According to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writing in today’s Opinion section, Putin has shaped a massive Russian military — which he used for grabbing part of the Ukraine and the Crimea. Crimea, once a tourist haven, has lost most of its tourist business, so it has become a drag on Russia’s economy.
Why then is he so popular? Putin’s aggressive nationalism appeals to Russians, who seem to recall Stalin fondly and who are not at all fond of democracy, which brought them raging inflation and little else. One can perhaps understand, partly, Putin’s popularity in Russia. But his popularity among Trump supporters?