There seem to be two main, competing views of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Kremlin in Western circulation.
The first sees Putin and his coterie as merely exemplars of the strong, authoritarian rulers that Russian history tells us Russians crave (being a multi-national polity ever surrounded and besieged by enemies), and that their actions and activities should be interpreted through that lens: they are neo-nationalist leaders reacting to the hostile environment into which history and geography has placed them.
The second view is far less benign. It sees the current denizens of the Kremlin as thugs who have usurped Russia’s hard won democratic freedoms, pillaging the country of its wealth, and ruthlessly eliminating any and all challengers and “enemies,” be they real or imagined.
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