Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects warships on the Neva river during the Navy Day parade in St Petersburg, July 2018. 
Mikhail Klementyev / Sputnik via REUTERS

Perhaps no figure has loomed larger on the world stage of late than Russian President Vladimir Putin. His recent summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki, U.S. concerns about future Russian interference after the 2016 presidential election, the Kremlin’s resurgence as a decisive player in the Middle East, and, of course, Putin’s easy reelection in March all seem to point to his continued strength. Yet they may also conceal a growing weakness.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in March 2014, was a boon for Putin’s approval ratings. Hovering around 61 to 65 percent before the seizure, they climbed

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