From spy to president: The rise of Vladimir Putin


Vladimir Putin has been ruling Russia since 1999. In that time he’s shaped the country into an authoritarian and militaristic society. He successfully invaded two of Russia’s neighbors and strengthened ties with Syria and Iran. He’s intent on pushing back against the Western world order… and it appears to be working. [Vladimir Putin, 17 years in power. The most powerful man in the world] To understand how one man could have such a powerful influence on his country, you need to go back to the chaos and corruption that gripped Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. When the Berlin walll fell, a 40 year old Putin was working as an undercover spy in East Germany for the Soviet security agency the KGB. The Soviet Union dissolved into 15 new countries, including the new Russian Federation. In Putin’s eyes Russia had just lost two million square miles of territory. He later called this a major geopolitical disaster of the century. Lamenting that tens of millions of his co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. The new government had to sell off nearly 45,000 public businesses like energy, mining, and communication companies that had been run by the communist regime. And it was chaos. The Russian economy was in a freefall and all these companies ended up in the hands of a few extremely wealthy men, known today as Russia’s oligarchs. At the same time the new Russian state was having a hard time establishing itself. Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin was wildly unpopular for cooperating with the west. And to make matters worse he was an alcoholic and many Russians thought he was an embarrassment. In order to stay in power, he leaned on the support of these oligarchs, surrendering an immense amount of political power to them. This graph shows how inequality actually worsened after the fall of the Soviet Union. This is where Vladimir Putin enters politics. He leaves the KGB in 1991 and becomes the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin uses his position to give special treatment to friends and allies in the private sector. He helps them structure monopolies and regulates their competitors, quickly becoming a favorite among the oligarchs. Before long he’s assembled a support network of oligarchs, crime bosses, and security officials, mostly fellow former KGB officers like he was. With their help he rapidly ascends to the upper echelon of the new Russian state. In 1999, president Boris Yeltsin appoints Putin, still relatively unknown in national politics, to be the prime minister. A fierce nationalist, Putin feared Yeltsin was letting the US dominate Russia and that NATO, the alliance that worked for decades to contain Soviet influence, would expand into the new liberated countries and surround Russia. Putin’s goal then became to build a strong Russian state, one that would be both stable at home and capable of exercising more influence over its neighbors. And he quickly got his chance… During the post-Soviet chaos there was escalating violence in Chechnya, a region thatinformally seceded from Russia in the mid-90s. Chechen war lords and terrorists were pushing into Russian territory and attacking the border. In August 1999, a series of deadly bombings killed more than 300 people in several Russian cities, including Moscow. Putin, the new prime minister, immediately blames Chechen separatists for the attack. He regularly appears in Russian television claiming he will avenge Russia. The population quickly rallies around him. Putin’s approval ratings jump from 2% before the bombing to forty-five percent after the bombings. Journalists later uncovered evidence that suggests Russian security services could have been complicit in the Moscow bombings, perhaps knowing they would spark support for a strong man like Putin. But a closed state investigation quickly quashed any dissenting theories. So Russia launches a popular and devastating war in Chechnya. The capital city of Grozny was leveled by Russian bombing and some estimated close to 80 thousand people died. And in less than a year russia successfully brings Chechnya back under its control. In December 1999 Yeltsin resigns making Putin the interim president. In May, during the bloody campaign in Chechnya, Putin wins the presidential election. He begins to shape the Russian state to his vision. Patronage and corruption remain some of his key tools, but he quickly suppresses the oligarchs under his rule. Those that support Putin are rewarded, those that don’t are eliminated. “Well once Russia’s richest man, imprisoned Kremlin critic and former oil magnate, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to 14 years in jail. This on a new conviction of embezzling oil. This is effectively a vendetta from Vladimir Putin. for getting involved in opposition of politics.” With the oligarchy tamed, Putin was now free to move his vision outside of Russia’s borders. At the time relations with the US are fairly good. Putin even vacationed at George W. Bush’s summer home. “I looked a man in the eye I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy”. But things were about to change… In August 2008, Russia invades Georgia, a former Soviet republic. It’s a display of aggression and strength on behalf of pro-Russian separatists there. Russia quickly annexes two small parts of Georgia, drawing condemnation from all over the world. Interestingly though Putin was not president during the invasion. See, the Russian Constitution says the president can only serve two consecutive terms, but sets no limit on the total number of terms one can serve. So Putin took the Prime Minister role again when his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev served as president. When Obama is elected US president in 2008, he attempts to reset relations with Russia. And they make some progress. Most notably to limit both country’s nuclear arsenals. But Putin remains paranoid about US intentions and remains opposed to these new relations. He’s particularly bothered by US interventions in the Middle East, especially in Libya in 2011. He publicly criticized Medvedev for not vetoing the action in the UN Security Council. Putin announces his candidacy for president and wins the 2012 election by a preposterous margin. “Injustice says Dmitry this outrage can’t continue. I’m here to say no to Putin”. Putin starts his third term once again amid chaos. He doubles down on his authoritarian governance style at home and his militaristic strategy abroad. But in both cases, he showcases a mastery of information. He first took office in 2000, Putin has kept tight leash on Russian television. Essentially all news outlets are state-owned propaganda machines. His regime decides which stories air and how, always depicting him as the strong Russian leader. In 2012, he cracked down on human rights and civil liberties, making clear there was no room for dissent in his Russia. Using state television for example he administered a blistering campaign against a feminist and gay rights music group Pussy Riot. “The latest of the loudest of such performance for the so-called punk prayer the Christ the Savior cathedral where they were yelling things which were rather profane to be yelled in Church. Of course, three members of the punk group Pussy Riot were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Putin also bolstered his aggressive foreign strategy. He used traditional military methods like sending weapons and fighter planes to help dictator Bashar al-Assad fight a bloody civil war in Syria. But Putin’s regime has also developed and fostered the most effective cyber army in the world and he’s used it to wreak havoc in the West. These hackers have stolen classified US information hacked politicians email accounts, even shut down Georgia’s internet while Russian troops invaded. And of course, they tried to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Russian hackers have also launched propaganda campaigns in support of right-wing candidates in Europe. With this, Putin hopes to exploit and deepen the political divide in Western democracies. In 2014, the Putin vision culminated in the targeting of Ukraine; another former Soviet country. Ukraine’s president was opening up to the west and Putin feared he would join NATO. So Russian hackers launched a propaganda campaign against him stoking protests in the pro-Russia eastern part of the country. He then sent in disguised Russian troops and before long violence erupted. In goes the Russian military and in early 2014, Putin annexed Crimea. He continues to support the fighting in Ukraine and as of 2017 over 9,000 people have died. The world erupts in protest but Putin doesn’t give in. See his aggressive foreign policy successfully weakens his neighbors while also rallying Russians around him. But he has done all this at the expense of his own people. His invasions have prompted harsh sanctions from the west, barring Russian businesses from trading in Western markets. Russian currency has plummeted in value and the energy industry that Russia relies on is collapsing. It’s hard to imagine Russia can continue under these circumstances. But the election of Donald Trump brings new hope for the Putin vision. Trump’s rhetoric has been notably soft on Russia. He could lift sanctions and weaken NATO, potentially freeing up space for Putin’s Russia to become a dominant power once again.

100 thoughts on “From spy to president: The rise of Vladimir Putin”

  1. the Eastern part of Germany joined Nato in 1999? I didn't know that! I wonder how that worked when Germany already has been united since 1990.

  2. I've had a lot of strange mental experiences. I feel a void at the moment. It's probably the worst feeling ever. I would like Putin to give me some small token as a sorry gift. Or he could drop my name and get this over with, but I'm still going to the sale on Oct 15th. Just do it. it'll only take a week to be forgotten. Come on, fluffy, pink, cloud, star, soda deity.

  3. abkhazia and south ossetia were never annexed by Russia. both achieved de facto independence in the early 90s and are not part of Russia today

  4. Trump's divided weapons to Ukraine something that Obama wouldn't do. Trump is also president of the u.s. killed 200 members of the Russian military in Syria. How can you report what you do with a straight face?

  5. really, this is so terrible. Your narratives are so off the mark. If this is your creation then Iam sorry to say but you need to re think what you think you know.

  6. Putin never annexed cremia. The region voted to join Russia by them selves. This is one of west controlled channels & is misguiding

  7. russia should make such channels like vox and vice to tell their side of the stories too…. not only the US side , the USSR will unite once again

  8. This man practically runs all the countries and yet Americans still believe so much we are the best and strongest country. This man is trying to stop evil from taking over and Americans just push evil to take over. This man has made Russia a better country as well as other countries and this is why he’s probably the most beloved leader in the world.

  9. Translation in subtitles of Putin’s speech incorrect (3.12) .
    he said: we need to pay attention hard about all cases like this.
    No words about animals and dogs.
    for reference — the dog sounds like “sobaka” or “pes”.
    I do not condone anyone, but cheating is not good 😂

  10. 3:13
    What VOX subtitles are saying: They are mad dogs. They should be treated as such.
    What Putin is actually saying: We should carefully treat all these cases…
    LOL
    VOX I really like this channel, especially that part about disasters, and also I like your editing style, but could you please stop treating not English speaking people like that? Sometimes we could clearly hear what people are really speaking about in their language. It just looks ridiculous.

  11. Putin is the greatest leader in the world and extremely intelligent and humanist unlike neo-cons genocidal maniacs in usa and israel.

  12. Ovco poglavju mi ga umakni avto se a moje ja sem lotosrecnik avto mi je ukrao 1996 do sad mam zashtiteno da se ne odstraniti 275 mega 3 krat 4 mega i sve ostalo u bistvu slovenija i hrvaški i austria zato nemcu lazim ne daj ni moj ženi ker čutu ruska napraviti austria me be ne izdamo ja kako kazem

  13. Feminist squeal and squirm like rats trapped by a crushing trap in Russia . That's how they should be treated , feminists should be treated like animals. Treating them as a part of human species is absolutely disgusting . You don't percieve feces as a human then why is everyone treating feminist as humans ?

  14. its funny how US invasions in middle east is just, but Russia protecting people near its borders is wrong.
    also funny that every US media keep telling that Trump could lift sanctions since 2016, but he didnt. Most likely he will never lift it. So if your "chosen by Russia president" cant lift it, maybe he arent "chosen by Russia"??? Just another way to criticize Trump "hey he didnt hate Russia!"

  15. Sve imam zaščiteno i nikad da ne vezeshe neki drugi na glas il ovaj shto prica nikad ne zashtitim dokad bom ja meeeeeee …….ker vi ti polomil nemshku pokvarimi magijo inglishtla ti si tad 1 crka što si mi kradla zlomm pusti ono bufalllla…….ne diraj pro bom zlom nemshki

  16. Pala u probleme nemshka zmarkulom brishime od tamo prlava nemška guzica……ne skoraj u zashtitu prlava guzica……..inglishtla

  17. What did america ? Nsa irak libya Afghanistan snowden wikileak Assange cuba the List goes on.
    Clean up your mess and then jugde about other Countrys

  18. You see, it's real simple..
    Putin is pushing back against the economic, political and social corruption that is rampant in the west.
    Can't say I blame him.
    They don't want that kind of stuff around their children.
    Caitlyn Jenner and company comes to mind.

  19. Hitman Introduction Scene. "Mission Impossible"
    Good Luck 47! (you will need it)

  20. It's really sad how he destroyed Georgia, instead of making peace there he chose to use power, use power in a country with 2.8 million population. Georgia is a tiny country and he still occupied it, come on man you've got the biggest land in the world and still taking something what doesn't belongs to you, and even killing them to take it. This reminds me situation when dog or pig eats it's meal, no matter how much food you give it, it will still bite other animals to took others food before it finishes it's meal. Really shame on you who's doing all this.

  21. Typical media spin. Take events out of context. For example, events in Ukraine. There was no mention of involvement of the US Embassy and CIA agents

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