Vladimir Putin is one of the world’s most powerful men—and his grip on Russia is tightening. After four years as prime minister, Putin is preparing to reclaim the Russian presidency. His drift toward authoritarianism prompted the west to turn against him and now there are signs Putin is wearing out his welcome at home.
With the world watching to see what Putin will do next, National Geographic Channel takes viewers behind the scenes of his reign in Russia and the West: Putin’s Rise to Power, airing tonight Thursday, March 1 at 9 p.m. et/pt. The special, two-and-a-half years in the making, is based on more than 100 interviews with eyewitnesses to his ascendancy. Audiences will hear from top Russian officials, as well as the world leaders who have tangled with Putin, including American diplomats Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, as well as Robert Gates, defense secretary under President Bush and President Obama.
Russia and the West: Putin’s Rise to Power offers the untold stories of the Russian leader’s role in shaping the world in the 21st century, including the prophetic warning about the Taliban that Putin, a onetime KGB agent, delivered to President Bush three months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The special also reveals Putin’s hand in the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine, where he sent his top Kremlin advisers to ensure President Leonid Kuchma’s hand-picked successor was elected. Viewers will also hear from the opposition candidate, Victor Yushchenko, who survived a brutal assassination attempt and was eventually swept into the presidency during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.
In another eye-opening sequence, the show explores the story behind Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. In vivid detail, Rice, the secretary of state at the time, and Gates take viewers inside the White House situation room, where President Bush and his advisers debated whether to send American troops to defend Georgia, a key U.S. ally. As Rice recalls, “There was a little bit of chest beating around the table and what we would do and [how] we had to keep the Russians from doing this.” Here, Rice and Gates reveal how the United States and Russia almost came to the brink of war.
Get a fascinating glimpse of the art of 21st century global diplomacy. Powell, President Bush’s first secretary of state, reveals his discomfort when the president famously declared he trusted Putin after looking him in the eye and getting “a sense of his soul.” As Powell recalls, he later told Bush, “You may have seen all that, but I still look in his eyes and I see the KGB.” In another segment, Sergei Ivanov, one of Putin’s top deputies, reveals how the Russian leader intentionally left Rice waiting for several hours during a visit to Russia.
Russia and the West: Putin’s Rise to Power concludes with President Obama’s attempt to “reset” relations with Russia, including his strategy to ignore Putin and instead concentrate on building a relationship with Putin’s protégé and successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 9P et/pt for the full story.