Since the protests against his regime of 2011-2013, he has pulled the strings back in Russia; Medvedev was allowed to hold Putin’s power as a puppet, people were allowed to demonstrate less, political meetings of opposition were invariably attacked and people detained, human rights organizations were all labeled as ‘foreign agents’ and were treated exactly like his opposition, the press was restricted and it is raising its own propaganda in which the sentiment ‘the West is against us’ is blown up so that the people accept their hard hand, and with success – since then its popularity has risen sharply again, yes.
Putin’s red line is one of threat, oppression, murder, war and especially a lot of agitprop.
As far as the Netherlands is concerned, there are our own dramas: we have put our neck (and wallet) out for the Nord Stream pipeline, we have invested heavily in Russian tires which, among other things, was reflected in the Zuidas, we organized a Russia year, which we Putin was back, who tried to disintegrate the EU through games with gas prices and delivery stops, Putin who reacted to the expulsion of a child-abusive alcoholic with the heartless abuse of a Dutch diplomat (and a lot of propaganda) and thus stiffened the Russia year, Putin being his theater about the covert warfare in Ukraine is so important that he answered the Dutch pleas for cooperation in MH17 with an endless list of falsified ‘proof’ and ourories, resistance and even more propaganda.
In the meantime the continuous pinpricks at the Russian-European borders, the internet propaganda machine with the fake news factories, the network of fake websites, the reactors and the hackers, the support of the (human rights violations of) Assad, the foreign (attempts at) liquidations, you name it.
Putin has chosen the collision course with the West for his own gain – not from the interests of (the people in) ex-Soviet states or his own population, they have to do it again with international isolation and a (compared to with the period before 2011) collapsed economy. Big words about BRICS while those countries have little to do with Putin – the Chinese say ‘yes’ to dirt cheap Russian gas while they gradually take over the power in the Central Asian republics from which Moscow has largely withdrawn due to lack of money.
I do not see why we should have respect for all of this. The idea that all of this would have to do with a mysterious, never-papered, ‘West’ breached promise to not extend NATO to the east is downright laudatory. I also do not see any excessive negativity towards Russia, we have been caring for far too long. The size is more than full.