Western naysayers who dismiss his popularity as rooted in false values — his control over the press, his bare-chested publicity stunts or chauvinism stirred by his military muscle — misunderstand the great respect and moral authority he commands within Russia and neighboring countries.
Putin stands for everything craved by a country debased and diminished by 75 years of 'communism': A principled leader who protects his country from Western aggression, Western contempt and Western values. While we in the West see ourselves as paragons of enlightenment, the envy of the people who don’t enjoy Western-style liberal democracy, only one in 20 Russians wants to become more like us.
The overwhelming majority hews to Putin’s vision of Russian exceptionalism and puritanism. Unlike almost every other country in the world, Russians have rising birth rates and growing families; unlike almost every other country in the West, Russians are undergoing a religious Renaissance.
Putin, who is baptized, is arguably a greater defender of traditional Christian values than the Pope, who has been tolerant of divorce, abortion, gay marriage and the transformation of what was once an unabashedly Holy Christian Europe into a part-atheistic, part-Muslim continent.