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'Pootie-Poot' and beyond: 20 years of Putin

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on August 9, 2019 - Duration: 02:57s

'Pootie-Poot' and beyond: 20 years of Putin

It's been 20 years since Russian President Vladimir Putin first came to power.

Back then, Bill Clinton was U.S. President, Christina Aguilera was topping the charts with 'Genie in a Bottle', and relations with the West were nothing like they are today.

Francesca Lynagh reports.

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'Pootie-Poot' and beyond: 20 years of Putin

Friday (August 9) marks 20 years since Russian President Vladimir Putin first came to power.

The summer of '99 had Bill Clinton as U.S. President.

Christina Aguilera was topping the charts with 'Genie in a Bottle'.

The digital world as we know it was in its infancy.

And, relations with the West were nothing like today.

Reuters' Andrew Osborn in Moscow: (SOUNDBITE)(English) REUTERS' ANDREW OSBORN SAYING: ''Back then, Mr. Putin's relations with the west were very different.

In fact there was even a honeymoon period after 9/11 in 2001 and the attacks on the Twin Towers.

Mr. Putin was one of the first to call then-President Bush and offer his sympathy.

And not just words; he backed up those words with concrete help in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

And he also allowed the United States to establish a military presence in Central Asia -- Central Asia traditionally regarded by Russia as its own backyard.

So relations back then very different from how they are now.

Things soured very quickly however.

Mr. Putin was opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He was very unhappy when the United States left a key arms control treaty and ordered Russia to build up its own nuclear weapons.

And he's been very unhappy ever since with what he regards as NATO's unacceptable expansion towards Russia's own borders.

That issue has remained one of the big problems between Russia and the West.'' Ten years later -- the same year we first saw him shirtless on horseback -- Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with this gift: the infamous ''reset'' button.

Supposed to reset their relationship, maybe be friends again.

It didn't work.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, the West imposed sanctions, flash forward to allegations of election-meddling, and the rest is history.

It's now hard to imagine there was once a time when a U.S. President -- namely George Bush -- affectionately referred to the Russian leader as ''Pootie-Poot.'' The home front also saw radical change.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) REUTERS' ANDREW OSBORN SAYING: The Internet and mobile phones have really taken a real hold in Russia but that is posed somewhat of a challenge for Mr. Putin and his allies because previously state news Russian state news that's where most people here get their information even now.

But that now has a competitor in the form of internet.

So there was a divide here.

Many Russians think yes, it's been great.

Living standards have improved under Mr. Putin even though they slipped in recent years when we've seen falling real incomes.

But there are other older Russians, in particular, and indeed some young Russians who look back and know about the 1990s and think that was actually a chance for freedom.

Mr. Putin came to power and really those hopes, those early hopes of democracy and of freedom of speech, freedom of the media that did briefly exist, that those hopes were snuffed out.''

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