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Russian President Vladimir Putin's popularity is at an all-time high at home because many Russians see him as "a savior" who is standing up to "a corrupt NATO" and West that are threatening Russia with nuclear weapons and trying to strangle it financially with economic sanctions, said retired Lt. Gen. Tad Oelstrom. Putin is "a czarist, absolute ruler, not subject to restriction, who must maintain tensions to retain power," he said in his Sept. 15 address at AFA's Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Oelstrom, National Security Program director at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy Center, said it was "hard to make a case that Russia is an existential threat to America," but it may be an existential threat to Europe because Putin wants to create buffer nations between Russia and NATO. But Oelstrom said the United States should continue working with Russia on nuclear arm reductions and nonproliferation. It must also "prop up Ukraine" and provide military support that is “more than [Meals Ready to Eat],” while restraining Kiev to prevent greater conflict, he said. A basic problem with Russians is "they don't trust us," said Oelstrom. He added, "We have to work on that."