Putin on the Couch

putin(Community Matters) Egomaniac explains a lot. As they say power corrupts . . . and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has been the ruler of Russia for 14 yearsPolitico asked more than a dozen Putin experts to share their insights & analysis:

He responds to Western threats of sanctions by threatening to confiscate Western assets in Russia.

He has made a bet that the members of the British ruling class are merely valets to Arab and Russian oligarchs—estate agents, investment bankers, lawyers, management consultants, art dealers—who now live primarily off the presence of foreign oligarchs. . . . It could be otherwise. Iran-style banking sanctions imposed by London—the hub of the Russian fortune—could stop the Kremlin annexing Crimea by punishing the oligarchs and making them pull Putin back from his adventurism. Washington should fret: London and the lesser European states are now dragging their feet. Cameron is only contemplating cosmetic mini-sanctions, not big banking hits. He is weak, but what else could the leader of the ruling Conservative Party—forever the Rottweiler of the City of London—even propose?

He has cobbled together a kind of Russian neoconservatism out of elements of traditional nationalism, the Russian Orthodox Church and anti-Western moralisms.

This is not high-quality statecraft. It’s bad judgment, emotional decision-making, petty score-settling with little care for long-term consequences. But it’s vintage Putin. . . . It didn’t have to be this way. With Russia’s wealth and power, Putin could by now have made himself into the senior statesman of Europe, the dean of the G-8, an international wise man.

Putin exemplifies modern Russia: corrupt, authoritarian, xenophobic and vengeful.

Today, Putin reveals a sense of an historic mission bestowed on him. That mission is to restore Russia to what he sees as its rightful place as one of the world’s great powers. This means adopting a set of traditional values rooted in established religions, above all, Orthodox Christianity; reviving Russian patriotism with its emphasis on a strong state; pursuing an active policy of nation-building; integrating eastern Slavs (Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians) in a “civilizational union” of central Eurasia, in an alliance with Muslim Turkic peoples also living there; and protecting Russia’s strategic independence from its geopolitical rivals—above all, the United States and the European Union.

Journalists probably shouldn’t bandy about medical terms to describe politicians, but I think Putin exhibits more and more signs of paranoia . . . . God forbid if he decides Russians in Latvia and Estonia also require “help.”

Invading Crimea was a screw-you statement to Ukraine’s new authorities and the West. Putin’s unchecked success would encourage him to do more of the same, perhaps in Moldova next.

My deep concern, however, is that the Putin we have seen since the stealth Russian military occupation of Crimea has become unhinged; that his deeply rooted anger at the West coupled with his failing Ukraine policy led him to a decision on Crimea that defies logic.

At home and abroad, Putin tries to strike the pose of a confident, assertive leader. In reality, his actions reflect a deeply worried authoritarian willing to resort to any means necessary to stay in power.

Third, Putin may actually buy into some of the Russian narrative on Ukraine—i.e., that a U.S.-directed and funded cabal of neo-fascists overthrew the Yanukovych government and is now bent on terrorizing ethnic Russians—just as he saw the 2004 Orange Revolution as orchestrated from abroad. This last point is worrisome. It suggests the Kremlin does not understand what is going on in Ukraine, and bad analysis can produce bad policy.

After nearly 15 years at the helm and lately at the center of the world’s attention, Putin sees himself as a giant among weaklings who don’t measure up to him and can’t compete with him.

He is an authoritarian kleptocrat.

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