On CNN Thursday, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill outlined how Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing vulnerability at home — and how it has given President Joe Biden an opening to advance U.S. interests.
"Now in terms of taking the temperature down, let's just be realistic," said Hill, who was a major witness at the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump and has detailed how disastrous Trump's dealings with Putin were. "I'm only talking about some fractions of degrees here because we're in a confrontational state. But Putin himself has got to get through the next several years as well."
"He isn't out of the pandemic," said Hill. "They have very low vaccination rates. Only about 10 percent of their population fully vaccinated now. The Russian economy isn't doing great. They've signaled very clearly they want to have investment. In fact, Putin was crowing about the fact that there were more American businesspeople at the recent St. Petersburg conference than other representatives. He might have been trying to make a point at the U.S. expense, but also very telling that they want to have American businesspeople and other people showing up. Putin has to get through some parliamentary elections in 2022, same as our midterms, and he does have to basically put himself forward for re-election in 2024. He can't just sail out to 2036 without having any elections here."
"So there are things Putin has to deliver at home," continued Hill. "He can't just strut about the world stage and say he's a great power or great leader. He has to show something, too, otherwise there is not just opposition like Alexei Navalny, which he's stuck in jail, and on a tear trying to persecute and get out of the way any real opposition. He has people around in his own circle who are wondering whether they might do a better job at being president. So he doesn't have everything going his way, and how he interacts with the U.S. president is going to be a sign as well at home about how he is faring on the international stage and domestically."
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