Former NPR correspondent discusses Russia's government, military issues

Oct 6, 2015

A former NPR international correspondent says fear and propaganda have kept Russian president Vladimir Putin in power.

Gregory Feifer is the author of a new book about Russia’s people, culture, and leadership. Feifer also spent about four years as NPR’s Moscow Correspondent, reporting on war and government there.

He says Putin is a “master of appearances,” and his denunciation of the West is popular among Russians who both envy and resent Western culture.

“His claims of Russian exceptionalism have enabled him to crack down on the opposition and his critics at home, people he’s called the foreign-backed fifth column, in a culture war that he has almost singlehandedly stoked. Now politically, that’s very smart. Many Russians support his claim to be protecting traditional values and the Russian Orthodox Church, whose staunch support for Putin has helped sanctify his kleptocracy.”

Feifer says Russia’s military has significant problems, and the West knows little about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations.

“What is Putin doing in Syria? What does he really want in Ukraine? What about the other former Soviet republics of Eurasia, the space that Moscow has again designated its sphere of influence?”

Feifer says Putin wants to boost his approval ratings by taking action in Syria, and is thriving on the attention it’s created.