Vladimir Putin has compared himself to the czar Peter the Great, but his actions have actually caused Russian influence to shrink in Eastern Europe. Russia’s neighbors, like Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, have united against Russia, even Russian speakers who used to feel loyalty to Moscow. These countries have seen significant improvements and are now vibrant, colorful, and wealthier than Russia. Poland, in particular, has become a sophisticated manufacturing base for Europe. Meanwhile, Russia and its allied nations remain oppressive and dismal. Putin’s invasion and behavior have embarrassed many Russian speakers and made them rethink their allegiance. His actions have paradoxically strengthened the Baltic countries and revived NATO. NATO has added Finland and is moving to include Sweden, with renewed commitment to protecting member countries from Russian incursions. Russian speakers in these countries are finally integrating into society. Putin has ultimately weakened Russia, which is experiencing economic and demographic decline. While Putin may compare himself to great leaders, he will likely be remembered as the leader who broke his country rather than a visionary leader.
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