20 years under Putin: a timeline

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1. Public Opinion Polls

“Rating World Leaders: What People Worldwide Think of the U.S., China, Russia, the EU and Germany” (Gallup, April 2015)

  • Over the past six years, Russia’s leadership has received the lowest approval ratings of the countries surveyed; in 2014, Russia was last in approval ratings compared with the other four “world powers” surveyed (the United States led the approval ratings, with a 45% approval rate).
  • Russia is the only country whose leadership receives higher disapproval ratings than approval ratings, with a 36% median disapproval rate versus a 22% median approval rate.
  • For respondents from a number of countries, Russia’s approval ratings decreased by 10 percentage points or more over the last year.
  • Respondents from Canada and the European Union gave Russian leadership the highest disapproval ratings.
  • Respondents from the United States had the highest disapproval ratings for Russia, with 82% (up from 42% in 2013) expressing disapproval. The European Union followed, with a disapproval rating of 79% (up from 26% in 2013).

“Germany and the United States: Reliable Allies but Disagreement on Russia, Global Leadership and Trade” (Pew Research Center, May 2015)

  • Seven out of ten Americans surveyed see Germany as a reliable ally, while six in ten Germans think of the United States as a reliable ally.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Germans think it is important for Germany to have strong ties with the United States, compared to only 17% who think it is important for Germany to have strong ties with Russia.
  • A majority of Americans believe that the European Union and the United States’ stances toward Russia over Ukraine are not tough enough (59% and 54%, respectively).
  • A considerable majority of Germans believe that the European Union’s and United States’ actions in dealing with Russia have been about right.

“ISIS a Bigger Threat Than Iran, Russia” (CNN/ORC, April 2015)

  • Sixty-eight percent of Americans say that ISIS is the biggest threat to the United States today, compared with 39% who identify the biggest threat as Iran, 32% as North Korea, 25% as Russia, and 18% as China.


2. Reports

“Freedom of the Press 2015” (Freedom House)

  • Russia now ranks 180th, next to Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, in terms of press freedom.
  • In 2014 Russian civil society organizations, including those supporting independent journalists and free mass media, faced significant pressure from Russian authorities, especially under Russia’s law on foreign agents.
  • The content of major news programs in Russia is controlled by the Kremlin. The Russian government maintains a tight grip on the editorial policies of those TV channels that dominate the current media landscape.
  • The state owns—directly and indirectly—all five of the country’s major national broadcasting companies, as well as radio stations, print media companies, and news agencies.
  • Propaganda by the state-owned Russian mass media significantly intensified after Russia began its campaign of military aggression in Ukraine in early 2014.

“Joint Efforts Aimed at Strengthening Norway’s Defense System” (Norway Defense Ministry and Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, April 2015)

  • The crisis in Ukraine marks the end of a long-lasting period of peace in Europe.
  • Russia’s military buildup has disrupted the balance in relations between Norway and Russia.
  • In case of a serious crisis, Russia will seek to gain control over the areas adjacent to the Kola Peninsula, including parts of northern Norway, as well as the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea.
  • As of today, however, the threat of an open conflict in the Norwegian—Russian north is still remote.
  • It is recommended that Norway increase its defense spending by 2 million NOK by 2017 and implement an efficiency program to strengthen the Norwegian defense system at a cost of an additional 3.5 billion NOK.
  • Additional funding sources should also be identified to buy new submarines.
  • The main priorities for the new Norwegian defense policy will focus on (1) providing enhanced intelligence and surveillance, (2) improving crisis management structures, (3) improving deterrence systems and the training of rapid-response units, and (4) ensuring Norway’s continuous presence in potential war zones and increasing support by regular military forces.

“Operation Armageddon: Cyber Espionage as a Strategic Component of Russian Modern Warfare” (Lookingglass Cyber Threat Intelligence Group, April 2015)

  • Since mid-2013 the Russian government has been carrying out “Operation Armageddon” in order to obtain information/data on the near-term plans and intentions of Ukrainian authorities.
  • The timing of recent cyberattacks coincided with Ukraine’s decision to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
  • The cyber-espionage campaign is based on spear phishing attacks.
  • Russia’s cyber espionage mainly targets the Ukrainian government and military officials (Ukraine’s Security Service is currently investigating these threats).
  • There is a direct correlation between cyber espionage and kinetic warfare used to achieve political and military goals. Cyberattacks are currently one of the means used to back military operations.

“Agenda for Czech Foreign Policy 2015” (Association for International Affairs)

  • 2014 was one of the most dramatic years in the history of international politics since the end of the Cold War.
  • With the ongoing Ukrainian crisis and the rise of the Islamic State, it has become clear that the main challenges facing Czech society are not limited to the fight against corruption and the growth of economic prosperity of its citizens.
  • Although the key aspects of Czech foreign policy have complied with the European course, the actions of some top Czech officials toward Russia have been inconsistent with that policy.
  • Some high-ranking officials (Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek and Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš), as well as Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, have questioned the effectiveness and necessity of sanctions against Russia.
  • Moreover, Czech President Miloš Zeman called for a lifting of sanctions against Russia at the Dialogue of Civilizations Conference, which was organized by Vladimir Yakunin, president of the Russian Railways company and Putin’s close associate.
  • However, representatives of the Christian and Democratic Union—Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL) and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek early raised the question of imposing sanctions against Russia.