Vladimir Putin, Defender of Russia’s Interests

President Vladimir Putin, participates in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, on June 22, 2020 (Source: Spokesman.com)

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In just a couple hours, the heart of Russia will vibrate to the sound of patriotic military music. People will celebrate Victory Day and the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany – a feat that would have been impossible without Soviet contribution. President Vladimir Putin will be the host of the ceremony that will unfold in Moscow. Since he has been at the helm of Russia for 20 years and because it is realistic to think that he will carry on beyond the end of his current mandate in March 2024, I thought it might be interesting to conduct an interview about the President of the Federation with a leading expert of this country. Dr. Dmitri Trenin, author of many insightful books on the subject (I recently reviewed his captivating book about the history of Russia) and Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, has generously accepted to answer my questions. Here is the content of our exchange.

Putin has broken the American monopoly in world affairs.

Entire forests have been used to print analysis and op-eds condemning President Putin and portraying him as a threat to the world’s stability. On the other side, your book about the history of Russia presents him as a leader who wants his country to be respected. What is his worldview and agenda?

Dr. Dmitri Trenin

What you say depends on where you sit. For those defending the current – post-Cold War – order of unprecedented dominance of the United States and the liberal and democratic norms that the U.S. has established – upholds and polices, Vladimir Putin is a dangerous disruptor. Since his Munich speech of 2007, he has been publicly challenging U.S. global hegemony and since 2008 (pushing back against Georgia’s attempt to recover breakaway South Ossetia) and 2014 (intervening in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine) has been pushing back against Western geopolitical expansion. Putin has broken U.S. de facto monopoly on intervening in the Middle East by sending forces into Syria in 2015. The following year, Russia interfered with its information resources in U.S. domestic politics which stunned many Americans who are not used to foreigners seeking to influence them. Russia has also strengthened partnership with China, America’s principal challenger of the day. Moscow has energy assets in Venezuela, whose leadership Washington seeks to topple; it has a relationship with Iran and contacts with North Korea, two minor enemies of the United States. Above all, however, Russia, under Putin, has veered off the West’s political orbit; returned to the global scene as a great power; and rebuilt its military might. Russia, which had been relegated to yesterday’s news, an international has-been, a regional power at best (Obama) and a filling station masquerading as a country (McCain), made a stunning comeback.

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Le budget militaire russe rétrécit

Top5DepensesMilitairesJe lisais cette semaine dans mon quotidien britannique favori que la Russie ne fait plus partie du top 5 des pays qui dépensent le plus dans le domaine de la défense.

Accusant une diminution de 3,5% du budget consacré dans cette catégorie en 2018, le pays de Vladimir Poutine a également reculé de deux places au palmarès par rapport à l’année dernière, permettant ainsi à la France d’accéder au top 5.

De là à prétendre que la Russie est en phase d’abandonner la posture résolument militarisme qui lui permet de manifester son influence sur la scène internationale, il y a un pas qu’il faudrait se garder de franchir. On peut notamment se questionner à savoir si ce positionnement est volontaire ou tributaire du contexte entourant les sanctions occidentales et les prix plus bas du pétrole.

Parmi les autres conclusions qu’il est possible de tirer des données dévoilées par le Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), on apprend également que le budget militaire de la Pologne a enregistré une croissance de 8,9%. Ce développement s’inscrit naturellement dans le contexte des tensions qui subsistent entre Varsovie et Moscou, notamment à propos de la question ukrainienne.

La Grande-Bretagne, de son côté, se classe en 7position derrière la Russie. Le britannophile que je suis ne pouvait s’empêcher de le souligner…

Quant au Canada, son classement au palmarès demeure stable en 14eplace.