October 28, 2015 11:46 AM EDT

Russia’s economy continues to buckle under the weight of low oil prices and international sanctions, but President Vladimir Putin has plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

His domestic popularity ratings have never been higher, as Russia continues to launch air strikes in Syria under the rubric of helping President Bashar al-Assad fight ISIS terrorists — though its jets have bombed opposition fighters there.

And tension with the West has eased too; violence in eastern Ukraine has subsided as European leaders hammer out a peace process with Russia and Ukraine to stage democratic elections in the former Soviet republic.

Ian Bremmer, TIME editor-at-large and president of the Eurasia Group, discusses why European leaders like French President François Hollande are slowly repairing ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and what the country’s support of the Assad regime in Syria means for the U.S.

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