'Putin Has Restored Sense of Might in His Foreign Policy' THE BRIEFING
Byline: Graham Henry
VLADIMIR PUTIN has long been caricatured in the West as a belligerent dictator to his own people - and an increasingly combative, recalcitrant child on the international stage.
His official spokesman's reported comments brushing aside Britain's level of influence on the rest of the world are not out of character and reveal even more about Russia's lingering sense of insecurity on the world stage than it does about the UK's diminishing role.
Here's a country of 143 million when once it was the centre of an empire of 291 million. It has dragged itself through the ignominy of the Yeltsin years and lurching from one economic disaster to another, to a place of (relative) stability under Putin - and the Russian people remain largely grateful for it.
Therein lies the rub in dealing with a Putin 14 years on from ascending to lead Russia.
He's got 14 years of perceived success behind him - whether as President or Prime Minister - and remains overwhelmingly popular with the public at large with approval ratings permanently above 60% since he entered office.
Living in St Petersburg (Putin's birthplace incidentally) in 2007, I lived through a similar example of how Russia's relationship with the UK can hit the kerb, when the tantrums start and sparks fly.
I was working as an interpreter and teacher for the British Council, a few months after the suspected murder of spy defector Alexander Litvinenko by a Russian agent.
As Russia refused to extradite the main suspect, Andrey Lugovoy, the fallout from it was spectacular.
Diplomats were expelled, snide remarks were exchanged between senior ministers, amid the forced closure of all British Council offices outside Moscow, including a lightning-strike closure of our own - ostensibly for tax evasion, but it was immediately clear that it was because Russian officials regarded it as a cover for something more sinister. …