Transcript for 'This Week' Game Changer: Overseas Adversaries
To those new threats from overseas from Russian president Vladimir Putin, aggressive and unpredictable as the Russian economy reels. And from the terrorist group Isis whose brutal surge threatens the stability of the east and the security of the west. Here's Martha Raddatz. Reporter: This was a year the country veered from crises to crises. The Malaysian flight shot down. Reporter: From the reemergence of a cold war adversary bent on asserting its super power to the emergence of a new and brutal terror group bent on destruction. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent unarmed civilians. Reporter: Brutality aimed not only at Iraqis and Syrians -- The fighting has just begun. Reporter: But Americans and the west. The islamic state Isis grew from the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq, quickly evolving into one of the best funded and most heavily armed terrorist organizations of all time. Left unchecked, they've made it clear that they see us as a strategic enemy and they have the capability over time to pose a significant threat to us. Reporter: Despite initial reluctance by the white house to get dragged back into another middle east conflict, the president expanded air strikes from Iraq into Syria. Pounding Isis targets relentlessly, something we witnessed firsthand aboard the uss H.W. Bush. The deck of an aircraft carrier is busy any time, but during this air campaign, it has been especially intense. The air campaign has held them off in certain areas, but the Iraqis certainly haven't been able to take much territory back. The momentum has been stopped. The key will be can we turn it around. That's going to depend on having Iraqi forces and other indigenous forces in the region being able to hold those gains. Reporter: As complex and nontraditional a threat as Isis poses -- The cold war a deadly tug of war. Reporter: 2014 brought back an all too familiar foe. Confrontations with mig fighter jets, glimpses of Russian submarines off the shores of Europe, echos of the cold war that began in spectacular fashion. Russian president Vladimir Putin, Forbes most powerful man, was ready to shake up the American dominated world order, and he sat down with George. You've put so much into these olympics going back to 2007. So I wonder now, how do you define success in sochi, and is your personal honor and reputation at stake? No, no. You see, I want it to be a success for this nation. Reporter: But Putin's olympics were plagued with controversy. Corruption, billions over budget and most notably, a backlash at Russian's anti-gay law, banning homosexual propaganda, gay athletes feared persecution. President Obama in a direct challenge appointed high profile gay athletes to lead the U.S. Delegation. What do you say to Americans who see Russia and you not only as a rival but unfriendly adversary? Between major countries there certainly always are some common ground and points of contention. I think history will remember those olympics as the launching pad of the transformation of Vladimir Putin. Russia's attempt to assert itself on the international scene and then what follows puts a really, I think, dark color on that event. Reporter: What followed is Putin's hard line response to the uprising in neighboring Ukraine, the country erupting into violence as Russian backed separatists tried to seize control. Russia, expanding its empire, annexes crimea. The United States slapped sanctions on Russia. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia and president Putin in particular has made. Reporter: Tensions reach a crises point when in July a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine is accidently blasted out of the sky by separatists reportedly using a russian-supplied missile, killing the nearly 300 passengers on board. There's responsibility there in Moscow, no question about it. Reporter: Putin's resurgence is taking a heavy toll at home as the Russian ruble loses more than half its value and food prices rise 25%. Despite these economic hardships, Putin's approval religion ratings remain high, over 80%. His power is singular. There's not a great deal of opposition, whether in the streets or other institutions of power. It's all him. Reporter: But 2014 did see the dismantling of one cold war relic. After decades of antagonism, the president re-established relations with communist Cuba. Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past. Reporter: Despite that thaw, the new threats that emerged over the year are far from resolved. For "This week," Martha Raddatz, ABC news, Washington.
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