The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Pulitzer Prize winning journalist talks Putin

Photo by Photo by Morgan Engel
Anne Applebaum

Nearly every seat was filled in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center Monday as Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum gave a presentation on President Vladimir Putin’s plan regarding Europe, the Middle East and the world at large.

Applebaum, an internationally recognized journalist, is most famous for her work regarding communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe.

Applebaum’s presentation “Does Putin Have a Grand Strategy?” explained the mindset and decision making process behind the recent actions of President Putin. As Applebaum explains, Putin’s goal is to maintain control over the Russian Federation.

“Russia is both very strong and very weak,” Applebaum said. “It is a system without separation of power.”

Nearly all of the political, economic and cultural power of Russia is controlled by Putin and a select number of businessmen and leaders. Applebaum compared it to if the President of the United States controlled not only the Executive Branch and with it the FBI, CIA and numerous other organizations, but also Exxon, CNN, FOX News and all of the major newspapers.

“There are very few independent institutions left in Russia,” Applebaum said.

However due to Russia’s heavy reliance on its state controlled energy industry, the price of oil can drastically influence its economy. Without its energy sector, the Russian economy is comparable to the small economy of nearby Poland. With the recent decrease in the market price of oil, Russia’s economy has been hurt.

This is important due to the fact that Putin retains control in Russia only if its people believe that Russia is better with him rather than without him. To ensure his people’s support, Applebaum said Putin has created the illusion of various crises to make them believe he must remain in power.

Russia has recently become involved with the conflict in Syria. By supporting President Assad in fighting the Islamic State (widely known as ISIS), Applebaum said Putin may have helped convince the Russian people that he is an important and necessary leader.

“ISIS is useful to Putin as it has created chaos and has become a useful enemy that Russia can fight,” Applebaum said.

Putin said Another major weakness that Russia has is the European Union.

Russia is strong enough politically, economically and militarily, to challenge any one member of the European Union by itself. However as a unified force, Putin doesn’t stand a chance. For example if Russia tries to “bully” one member of the E.U. by establishing an embargo on one of its products, the E.U. can in turn embargo Russian products causing much more economic damage together than they could alone.

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