20 years under Putin: a timeline

Photo: © Katarzyna Sokolowska | Dreamstime.com


1. Public Opinion Polls

“Americans Increasingly See Russia as Threat, Top U.S. Enemy” (Gallup, February 2015); “ISIS, Terrorism Seen as Graver Threats than Russia, Ukraine” (Gallup, February 2015)

  • According to these two polls, Russia tops the list of countries that Americans consider enemies. Eighteen percent of respondents said they consider Russia the country’s “greatest enemy,” followed by North Korea (15 percent), China (12 percent), and Iran (9 percent). For comparison, two years ago only 2 percent of respondents named Russia as one of the United States’ main enemies.
  • Americans’ views of Russia are currently the most negative ever in the history of Gallup’s 26 years of polling on the issue: 70 percent of Americans have unfavorable views of Russia compared to 24 percent who have favorable views.
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents expressed a negative view of President Vladimir Putin, compared to 13 percent who have a positive view of him.
  • Forty-nine percent of those polled said they consider Russia’s military power a “critical threat” to the United States, up from 32 percent a year ago.
  • The list of critical threats according to Americans includes ISIS (84 percent), international terrorism (84 percent), the development of nuclear weapons by Iran (77 percent), North Korean military power (64 percent), Russian military power (49 percent), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (49 percent) and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (44 percent).

“Benchmarking Public Demand for Internet Freedom: Russia’s Appetite for Internet Control” (University of Pennsylvania Center for Global Communication Studies, February 2015)

  • According to this survey conducted in 80 Russian regions, 49 percent of Russians believe that information on the Internet ought to be censored.
  • Forty-two percent of respondents said they think that foreign countries use the Internet against Russia and its interests.
  • About one-quarter (24 percent) of Russians said they consider the Internet a threat to the country’s political stability.
  • Eighty-one percent of those polled expressed a negative opinion toward calls for anti-government protests and change in the country’s political leadership.
  • Fifty-one percent of respondents said they believe the government’s primary motivation behind creating blacklists of websites is the preservation of political stability, while 13 percent said they think the measure is designed to limit democratic freedoms in the country.
  • Thirty-nine percent of Russians think that personal blogs should be regulated in the same way as mass media websites.
  • Ninety percent of poll respondents said that they trust Russian television, while 87 percent said they trust Russian news sources in general, and 86 percent said they trust newspapers, while just 43 percent said that they trust foreign media.
  • Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said that they trust online “folk encyclopedias” such as Wikipedia and 75 percent said they trust online publications. Sixty-six percent said they trust social networks and 55 percent said that they trust online forums and blogs.


2. Reports

“The EU and Russia: Before and Beyond the Crisis in Ukraine” (European Union Committee of the U.K. House of Lords, February 2015)

  • According to the authors of the report, many EU member states were “taken by surprise by events in Ukraine” because Europe’s evaluation of the Kremlin’s attitudes on the eve of the Ukrainian conflict was “catastrophically” wrong.
  • The report says “the EU’s relationship with Russia has for too long been based on the optimistic premise that Russia has been on a trajectory towards becoming a democratic ‘European’ country. This has not been the case.”
  • The report notes that if Russia does not change its course, new sanctions targeting Putin’s immediate circle of associates will be needed.
  • The report includes comments by a number of experts on Russia. One of the recommendations given is to make a distinction between the Russian state and society. The report also emphasized the need for the European Union to support Russian civil society.

“Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do” (The Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, February 2015)

  • The report, written by several different Russia experts, recommends that the United States start supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. “Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine has to be met with decisive action,” the report says.
  • The report recommends providing $1 billion in military assistance to Ukraine in 2015, followed by additional tranches of $1 billion in 2016 and 2017.

“Too Much Energy? Asia at 2030” (American Enterprise Institute, February 2015)

  • According to AEI’s prognosis, Russia will remain one of the world’s top energy producers and exporters over the next 15 years. But the situation will largely depend on external factors, including Western sanctions, aspects of development of the international market, EU regulations, and the European decarbonization policy.
  • Strategically important sectors of the economy will remain under state control, the report predicts. The Russian economy will undergo modernization, but at a slow pace.

“The Military Balance 2015” (International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 2015)

  • According to the report, Russia represents a threat to European security.
  • The fragmentation of Ukraine is in the Kremlin’s interests, the report says. Russian political leaders believe that Ukraine should remain under Russia’s control and should not get closer to the West.
  • It is unlikely that the Ukrainian crisis will be able to be settled in a peaceful way. According to the report, the United States has a moral obligation and a strategic duty to provide Ukraine with weapons.
  • The report notes that while the EU spends about 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense, Russia spends 4.2 percent of GDP, and the country is continuing its military modernization effort.

“Decade Forecast: 2015-2025” (Stratfor, February 2015)

  • The confrontation between the West and Russia over Ukraine will remain one of the most important issues on the international agenda for the next few years.
  • According to the report, it is unlikely that Russia can survive the next 10 years in its current form. Moscow’s authority will weaken considerably, it says, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of the country. As this process accelerates, the security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal will become a major concern.
  • Since Russia failed to invest its energy revenue in order to create a self-sustaining economy, the country will remain vulnerable to energy price fluctuations. Russia is currently unable to protect itself against the vagaries of the market.