Western media appears surprised that President Putin's latest approval rating was so high. After Russian military began bombing in Syria, Putin's popularity skyrocketed to its all times high of 90%. There are some obvious reasons for this, and quite a few important factors that western media tends to overlook.
There are signs that China is beginning to see Eastern Russia as an important "strategic rear area," a proximate overland supplier of a range of vital primary commodities. This is directly related to China's intensifying contest with the U.S. for primacy in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing is increasingly worried that, if this rivalry comes to a head, Washington may use its trump card -- launching a naval blockade of the sea lanes through which China receives most of its imported primary products.
While many hawkish observers in Washington demanded a more overt and energetic response from the Obama administration, the past six months can only be seen as vindication of President Obama's diplomacy toward Russia and proof of the abject failure of the shortsighted and domestically driven foreign policy of Vladimir Putin.
Congress long ago learned that public scrutiny makes it harder to pass bad bills. So in the midst of negotiations to avoid another government shut-down earlier this month both houses of Congress rammed through new sanctions against Russia as part of the misnamed "Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014."
The Ukraine crisis has forced Russian companies to seriously consider working with Chinese industry. Both state-owned and private Russian industrial enterprises have begun searching for potential Chinese partners that could compensate for the negative consequences of breaking ties with Europe. The initial results are encouraging.
The mayor of the Latvian capital city Riga, Nil Ushakov, stated yesterday in Moscow that for Latvia, "the best thing possible right now is President Vladimir Putin." His presence in Moscow and his comments about Putin illustrate how far the views of many Latvians diverge from the Western mainstream on relations between Russia and the West.