Name? Vladimir Putin
Westphalian identity? Russian
Why is he in the news? Every time Russia is out of the news for a few months Putin comes back even stronger. Whether it is the treatment of Alexei Navalny, the tensions surrounding Ukraine, or a newly erupted tit for tat with the United States, Putin’s actions have garnered a lot of attention in the past week.
Why do we care? Tomorrow Putin will hold his annual state-of-the-nation address where he might shed some light on his latest actions. The biggest escalation would surely be a blockage of the vital Kerch Strait, a sea passage essential for Ukraine. Next to the 100 000 Russian soldiers on the border, this is a clear reason for Ukrainian President Zelensky to call for NATO’s help.
Why should you care? The “SolarWinds” hacking attack was a very aggressive move by Russia against the US considering that new sanctions are not as strong of a message as expected…However, Putin’s response to these sanctions were enough for the US ambassador to Moscow to temporarily leave the country. This tit for tat scores an 8/10 on our how much should you care scale.
Who else cares? Alexei Navalny. The Kremlin critic has been in a working detention camp after his return to and trial in Russia. Since then, his condition has continuously worsened. Three weeks ago he started a hunger strike to obtain treatment by a doctor of his choice. Yesterday his condition worsened and he was sent to a hospital because he was days away from dying. Navalny is an important other piece in the power game between Russia, the US and the EU.
Any further comments? In last year’s annual state-of-the-nation address, Putin called for Constitutional Reforms assuring him power until 2036. Tomorrow we can expect to see further muscle flexes from Putin because, always remember, Russian national identity depends on Russia’s perception in the rest of the world.