Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 9 p.m.
FRONTLINE investigates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clashes with multiple American presidents as he’s tried to rebuild the Russian empire. Veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk (Putin’s Revenge, Putin’s Road to War) and his team trace the miscalculations and missteps of U.S. presidents over five administrations, culminating in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Drawing on in-depth conversations with insiders from five U.S. presidential administrations, former U.S. intelligence leaders, diplomats, Russian politicians, authors and journalists, the documentary reveals how the miscalculations and missteps of multiple American presidents over two decades paved the way for Putin’s attack on Ukraine — as seen through the eyes of people who were in the room.
“Vladimir Putin is as clear-eyed and cold blooded as any foreign leader I have ever seen,” former national security adviser John Bolton says in the documentary. “He knows exactly what he thinks Russia’s national interest is and he pursues it unrelentingly.”
From acclaimed FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk and his award-winning team, including producers Mike Wiser and Vanessa Fica, Putin and the Presidents traces how, prior to launching the war on Ukraine, Putin tested the waters by provoking and defying American presidents for 20 years — cyberattacking Estonia, invading Georgia, seizing Crimea, and interfering in a U.S. presidential election. The documentary provides unique insight into the icy relationship between Putin and current U.S. President Joe Biden, both of whom were shaped by the Cold War and whose current faceoff was years in the making, and into the evolution of Putin’s grievances with the U.S. and the West.