With Russia's uncontested hold on Crimea, the air campaign in Syria and Vladimir Putin's seeming influence with President Donald Trump, does the Russian leader have the upper hand on the international stage strategically, militarily and geopolitically?

"That's an exaggeration ... he has a certain way to approach things and he manifests himself very nicely," says Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Russian parliament. "But, the question is whether Russian people are living better than they were previously? No."

"Putin is simply using the lack of any initiative on the part of the Western governments, on the part of EU and obviously the absolutely disastrous foreign policy of Obama," says former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov. "I'd rather say the West is losing than Putin is winning."

When asked about Ponomarev's 2015 claim that Russia was seemingly like 1930s Germany, the former Duma member said that though Putin is no Hitler, what Putin is doing "reminds" him of Nazi Germany.

"Vladimir Putin is not Hitler, he is just a kleptocrat," says Ponomarev. "But in terms of what he's building inside the country, reminds me very much of that period in Germany."

"Putin has to have a strong hand because you can't run Russia being a weak leader," counters Nekrassov. "Russia is still in the transition stage. It had the most horrible dictatorship for more than 70 years."

In this week's Arena, commentator and former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov debates Putin's role on the international stage with former Duma member Ilya Ponomarev.

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Source: Al Jazeera News