Oliver Bullough has been seeing a lot by just observing Vladimir Putin. That, and taking him at his word;
When Putin spoke to the Duma [in 1999, upon being named by Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister], his homeland was a different, and less respected place [from the Soviet Union in which he'd grown up, and served as a KGB officer]. He spoke the language of a man who yearned for the lost certainties, who longed for a time when Moscow was to be reckoned with. He did not say it explicitly, but he was clearly stung by Russia's failure to stop Nato driving the forces of its ally, Serbia, out of Kosovo just months previously.
"Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest ... We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored," he said.
His domestic policy was to restore stability, to end what he called the "revolutions", that had brought Russia low. His foreign policy was to regain Russia's place in world affairs.
Those two core aims have driven everything he has done since. If only people had been listening, none of his actions would have come as a surprise to them.As they weren't to Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, the American electorate was not listening to them in 2008 and 2012. Bullough thinks that Putin is heading for a rough patch ahead though;
Putin has succeeded in building a version of the country of his childhood, one that can act independently in the world, and one where dissent is controlled and the Kremlin's power unchallenged. But that is a double-edged sword, because the Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, and a Russia recreated in its image risks sharing its fate.
So maybe those non-Obamalike favorability ratings will be dropping. If Barack Obama is reading, that is.