A fellow blogger with substantial experience in Europe sent this BBC footage, which I believe readers will find instructive. There were several things I liked about this segment. First, in contrast to US TV, where two sides who hold strongly opposed views talk past each other, there was a real discussion. Each side actually went beyond its talking points while remaining civil. Second was that the Telegraph writer Liam Halligan debunked some popular perceptions about Russia and Putin.
This conversation also raised another issue about the situation in Russia. The BBC commentators seemed exasperated by the fact that Putin is popular, and kept stressing that his regime was authoritarian. The West has only itself to blame for Putin’s success. Western institutions like Harvard and the IMF turned post-Communist Russia into a great neoliberal lab experiment, and the results were disastrous. Not only did ex-government officials and their cronies engage in a massive plutocratic asset grab (with some well-placed Westerners making sure they got cut a piece of the pie), but conditions for ordinary people deteriorated to an extraordinary degree. Adult male life expectancy fell by four years, a shocking decline. After creating such a debacle, someone like Putin, who reined in the oligarchs and improved conditions for the population at large, would look like a big improvement.