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URI Professor meets with Vladimir Putin, other world leaders

By       Message Nicolai Petro     Permalink
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Is Putin on his way out or is he more powerful than ever? Why is he so macho?

Putin still has nearly five years of his third term left to serve and I see no evidence, at this point, that he will not do so.

His "macho" image in the West seems to me to be more a reflection of the Western media's inordinate interest in sexuality in general. In Russia Putin is most often regarded as decisive and forthright. Both men and women here tend to see these as rare virtues among politicians.

You talked earlier about a young generation of Russians searching for a post-Soviet identity. The Western press often makes it sound like young people in Russia are miserable. Are they? Who are these people searching for a new identity?

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One of the opposition leaders at this conference, Xenia Sobchak, who is the daughter of Putin's mentor, the late mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, spoke quite passionately on behalf of her generation. She repeatedly made the point that people 30 years old and younger have no recollection of the Soviet era and have no desire to be treated like children.

Given Russia's integration into the world economy today, I would say that this generation has pretty much the same ambitions and the same opportunities as their Western counterparts. Culturally, they are less concerned with Russia being part of the "West" than they are with Russia being modern and economically competitive. That makes China an equally attractive destination for many young people.

Other countries often view Americans as arrogant, privileged, and poorly educated. What do Russians think of Americans?

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I suppose it depends on whom one talks to. Educated elites in Russia see themselves as being similar to their American counterparts. On the other hand, they draw a sharp distinction between themselves and the working class, rural populations, and immigrants. In that respect, global elites all seem very similar, whether they are from America, India, China, or Russia.

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Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department and as civic affairs advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. His books include: The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Harvard,1995), Russian Foreign Policy (Longman, 1997), and (more...)

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