For most Indians Putin is considered as a Russian megalomaniac who is supposedly linked to nefarious plots around the globe. Being an Indian teen in the post Soviet Era, I have been brought up primarily by American TV shows, movies and books. Recently, I thought about how many of my thoughts and ideas were shaped by these methods of propaganda. Most importantly I could not understand the reason India was so inclined towards the US whereas Russia had always been by their side.

I find it very disturbing the way that we characterise foreign leaders of countries that are not within our domain of understanding. Assad gets labeled as a ‘tyrant’, Modi is called a ‘right wing capitalist’ and Putin is just ‘pure evil’. It does not bother me as much that the media and the masses classify these leaders as much as it does that governments themselves bring themselves down to this level and take upon themselves to solve the problems of this world.

I am not saying that people in ‘democratic’ countries should not be able to criticise other world leaders openly and people should keep their opinions confined to their own countries. What I am saying though is that the governments of countries should not stoop down to the level of gossiping people like us. And honestly, when a government such as ours puts on this holier than thou attitude criticising the condition of human rights in other countries while remaining completely oblivious to transgressions in India it brings forward a very misguided image.

Frankly, I don’t know whether Putin is good or bad, evil or virtuous. I feel that I do not have enough information to make a judgement on one of the world’s most prolific leaders. I do not speak the language, don’t live in the region and have never talked to a Russian. I am not Russian. I read the newspapers, mainly American, and my views are inevitably biased.

Although Putin’s approval ratings do seem to beat that of any other world leader by miles. At 87 percent most world leaders only dream about such a high approval rating. While I myself feel that these numbers might be politically influenced, I can confidently say that he is fairly popular in the region. A study conducted by the Pew Research group compared the confidence that various countries had in Putin in comparison to Obama. Only three countries had confidence in Putin to do the right thing. China, with its own history with the West was one, Vietnam the other.

Confidence in Putin
Confidence in Obama

Once again, this is not an accurate measure to judge his capability as a leader within his own country. Personally as a liberal democrat, I disagree with his hold over the press and the right to free speech but the times of free speech in Russia did not seem to take the country out of the quagmire it was present in. I wouldn’t call Putin a great leader by Western standards, but he is a strongman which is exactly what Russia needs. I strongly feel that Russia is not ready for democracy yet, considering how polarised Russian politics are.

Recently I was going through a couple of speeches made by prolific Western leaders, Indian leaders and the Russian President. The difference surprised me much more than I though it would have. While all of these leaders attacked various government policies and politics, they ended up taking names of leaders, all but Putin. He made his point very well but still maintained respect for the other side. He was the only statesman that understood that every nation has its own agenda, its own goals. You don’t have to necessarily be coherent with these views but you need to regard them as valid points without demeaning them. Putin refrained himself from using names of individuals while leaders like Modi and Obama openly made digs at the Russian Federation and its President.

At times I blame my parents for ensuring that the majority of the information I could gather was from Western sources which were far more progressive in the eyes of people. At times I realise that if not for Western sources I might have never had the opinions and ideas that let me criticise the hand that fed me.