So Russia is sliding into economic decline, but why does political support for Putin remain high amidst the economic downturn?
This is the narrative Russia has been asserting in staking its claim in the Ukraine Crisis. Putin attributes Western encroachment in Russian affairs—specifically US-driven NATO expansion and Western involvement in Ukraine—as the cause of forcing Russia’s hand in Ukraine.
In 2013, when pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suddenly abandoned an agreement with the EU for closer trade and political relations in favor of maintaining close ties with Russia, pro-Western demonstrations began in Ukraine. There were reports that the Ukrainian government had come under pressure from Russia not to sign the historic EU deal. Moreover, Putin offered Ukraine a counter-deal, promising to lend the country some much needed financial assistance and reduce its gas debts to Russian oil giant, Gazprom, by a third, and wanted Ukraine to join its own EU-like customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Through these actions, Putin made it clear that Russia would not allow the West to turn “Little Russia” into another bastion of the West.