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So what I meant by it, and judo — and Vladimir Putin became a judo champion as a young man. He said in his own autobiographical essay, it helped him to get out of the rut and the hardscrabble background that he had. What I meant by that was that in judo, even if you are maybe weaker than your opponent, if you sense their own distraction, if you sense their own weakness, if you can distract them, you can in fact prevail over what would appear to be a stronger opponent.
And I think what Putin has done very effectively is to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him by distraction in the West, by the divisions, by the polarization, and by the fact, I would argue, that the United States did not have a very coherent idea about what it wanted to do after the Soviet Union collapsed.
And when Putin came to power in 2000, he had a pretty clear idea that he wanted to restore Russia as a great power. And so, he’s managed to take advantage of this and restore Russia as a global player. And when you look at the fundamentals in Russia, a GDP which is the size of that of Italy, a declining population, an economy that’s overwhelmingly dependent on raw materials revenues, you realize that he’s played a weak hand quite effectively.
And, of course, he’s been in power for 20 years now, and he’s seen American presidents and other leaders come and go, and he feels that he has the upper hand in many ways, despite all these problems.