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Aaron Schachter: Among those in the Olympic audience today was Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was there to watch a Russian get gold in his favorite sport, judo. But before that he visited with British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. That was a good sign for Anglo-Russian relations. In recent years things have been a little frosty, to say the least. Author Angus Roxburgh has written about Putin and served in the Kremlin as a press advisor.
Angus Roxburgh: Relations between Russia and Great Britain really have been in the doldrums for many years now. You can date this back really to 2006 when you'll remember the former KGB man, Alexander Litvinenko, who turned against Putin and sought exile in London. He was murdered in London. The British authorities believe that the FSB, that's the successor to the KGB, was responsible. And they've been demanding that the main suspect in the murder be extradited from Russia. And Russia is steadfastly refusing to do that. Today, again, obviously, they talked about it, but again, there was no progress on that matter.
Schachter: Does this visit come at an opportune time for Putin? It seems his image is hurting Russia as a whole.
Roxburgh: He does have a bad image in the West. He's more concerned not to let things get out of hand in Russia. He's had several laws passed in recent weeks to crack down on the opposition and I get the impression that he no longer really cares whether the West condemns him for that or not.
Schachter: Now, Angus, you've actually worked with the Kremlin. If Putin were to ask you, Angus, what do you think the best approach is? Is it to maintain good relations with the West or is it to do as you just suggested, worry about what's going on domestically?
Roxburgh: I did say this often through his advisors that he should stop worrying about the West and about opposition. If he is as he proclaims he is, a democrat who believes in the democratic system, then he should have nothing to worry about. He is after all, actually a very popular politician in Russia. So why does he keep cracking down on the opposition on this way? It's a known goal in my opinion.
Schachter: Did you get the feeling in dealing with advisors that they understand the world as it is as opposed to the world as it was?
Roxburgh: Hmm, I think he does have some very clued up advisors who understand the Western world pretty well. He himself I think understands it less well. He has a pretty skewed view of democracy. He's extremely worried, paranoid almost actually, I think, that the Western governments are trying to bring about what they call a colored revolution in Russia, like the Orange Revolution that we saw in Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, which brought to office pro-Western governments, which tried to turn their back on the old Soviet style of doing things. And Putin is still pretty rooted in the old Soviet style of doing things. He's not a communist, but he's certainly not a democrat.
Schachter: He there been any consequence to Putin's sort of old school way of thinking as far as relations with the West goes and the UK specifically?
Roxburgh: Putin does see, I think, the world divided into us and them. He is extremely resistant to what he sees as Western interference in Russian affairs, and I think actually that also helps to explain why he is against what he sees as Western interference in Syria. He simply is against the idea of Western countries, particularly the United States, laying down the law and trying to decide who should rule in other countries because he's afraid they will try to do the same in Russia.
Schachter: Now, we are speaking today of course, because Putin is at the Olympics. The next Olympics in Russia in Sochi. What do you think Putin wants to get out of those games?
Roxburgh: Yeah, this is a big priority for him, the winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. He wants it to be a major success. I think that's also part of the reason why he appeared in London today. I think he wants there to be some sort of continuity between these apparently very successful games and the games which he wants to host in Sochi in 2014. He will of course, be president and you can be sure he will be there reaping all the sort of propaganda benefit that he can from those games.
Schachter: Angus Roxburgh, author of the book The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia, speaking to us from Bratislava.