The Altamar podcast tackles an ambitious topic in its third episode: Russia. Co-hosts Peter Schechter and Muni Jensen look at Vladimir Putin’s laundry list of apparent wins, but are left unsure whether one can truly say that Russia itself is winning.
Featured guest Mark Galeotti, head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague, gives a critical take on Russia’s new role in the world.
His conclusion: Putin has been mythologized in the West, where observers paint him as a singularly capable puppetmaster. Instead, says Mark, he’s merely a good bluffer. And his bluffs are causing longstanding damage to Russia’s own interests.
“Putin is equivalent to that neighbor who at the moment has a great big shiny car, and is busy having new carpet laid, and you think, my God, he must be doing well,” he says. “But what you don’t realize is the size of the credit card bill behind it.
So with a sympathetic White House as his shiny car, and a divided Europe as his new carpet, how big is Putin’s credit card bill?
“The judicial systems of all these countries have now moved their focus toward Russia,” says Schechter. “And there’s going to be so much scrutiny into this kleptocratic government, that I think it’s going to start causing some serious problems.”
Jensen points out that the problems may start with Putin, but they certainly don’t end with him. The Kremlin’s antics have resulted in broad sanctions that will have Russian citizens feeling the consequences.
“When we think about Putin and Russia,” she says, “where he could stand to lose the most is in his economy, which is only just starting to recover from a very long and painful recession.”
As for Putin’s American counterpart, Schechter asks if he can be considered a loser as so many are inclined to believe. “If the Russians helped Trump win the election, didn’t he actually win? Because, after all, there he sits at the White House today.”
But Jensen notes that with the latest sanctions bill curbing Trump’s own authority, Congress may have handed him an even bigger loss than it handed Vladimir Putin.