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The Daily Vertical: Not Just A Putin Problem (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

"Krym Nash" was just the beginning.

Crimea is not the only place and Ukraine is not the only neighbor where Russia has territorial ambitions.

And this is not just a fixation of Vladimir Putin and his cronies, but for large and stable majorities of the Russian population.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Russians believe that parts of neighboring countries rightfully belong to Russia.

Moreover, some 52 percent back military intervention when the interests of ethnic Russians are threatened.

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Now, these numbers are not new, they've been relatively consistent for awhile now.

But they are worth noting nonetheless, because they remind us that more than a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a large majority of the Russian population is not willing to let go of its dreams of empire.

And this has been true even as living standards have risen over the past two decades.

These figures are also worth noting because they remind us that even after the Putin regime passes from the scene -- as it inevitably will someday -- Russia will probably continue to have designs on the territory of its neighbors.

They remind us that when a State Duma deputy like Pavel Shperov refers to Russia's neighbors as "so-called countries" and says that "borders are not eternal," he's not just spouting Kremlin talking points, but is speaking to a deeply held belief of a strong majority of Russian citizens.

These numbers remind us that Russia's neighbors don't just have a Putin problem.

After a quarter of a century of independence, they still have a Russia problem.

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