Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Russia has been transformed under Vladimir Putin

The nation has come a long way during the two decades under his steady gaze

The picture was very different when Vladimir Putin was appointed as Russia’s prime minister 20 years ago today.

President Boris Yeltsin named his fourth prime minister in less than 18 months. The state was struggling to its feet after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The coffers were empty.

Mr Putin, then a relatively unknown security services chief with little direct experience of politics, would emerge as Mr Yeltsin’s successor within months and became president on the Millennium.

Mr Putin has rebuilt the Russian state and the Kremlin has taken on a central role in world affairs.

The president’s approval ratings remain at a level most Western leaders would envy.

The longest-serving Russian leader of living memory is secure in his role through the end of his term in 2024 and perhaps beyond.

A firm hand that grappled with internal corruption and the terror campaign waged by Chechen separatists in the early years helped stabilise the country. He earned respect and popularity among large swathes of the public, as the man who restored Russia's dignity following the humiliating collapse of the USSR and as a guarantee of stability after the changes of the 1990s.

It was the so-called Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 that delivered a sense of purpose to Russia’s efforts to assert its place in the world.

The West's dismissive attitude towards Russia melted away as its interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere faltered.

A decisive intervention in Syria followed and with the rise of President Donald Trump, Russia has seen its sway among many nations gain relative to the American retreat.

Much remains to be done to complete the mission Mr Putin has started but Russia has been transformed in two decades under his steady gaze.

Updated: August 9, 2019 12:59 PM

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