Whether Putin seeks an exit from the Ukraine crisis or escalates it depends largely on which Putin the West is dealing with.
So I listened to it and holy fuck you were right. Here are my notes:
Has Putin “retreated into a Kremlin of the mind”?
Mark argues that Putin is surrounded by what is essentially yes-men, friends and advisers who don’t speak of reality nor question him. According to Ben Putin regularly reads international press clippings. According to Kolesnikov Putin doesn’t trust those around him and is always looking out for the truth. Which of these interpretations are correct. Has Putin closed himself off to a world where he only sees what he wants to see? Or is he a fully informed KGB agent always one step ahead?
It’s true that he is isolated. He keeps a sheltered life for protection against assassination attempts. But I don’t think he’s isolated from information. I would argue that it’s not a lack of information that is driving his actions. I think he just sides with those more conservative or Siloviki-approved options because of the position he’s put himself in. He kept Kudrin around (although that’s a complex issue in itself) after all.
Does Putin have a God complex?
Is he driven by a holy mission to turn Russia into a great country? A lot of people have been explaining Putin’s actions in terms of establishing his legacy. In his last big speech back in December he pretty much spelled out for us the ideology of his 3rd term: Russia has become a great country so let’s show the world. But does Putin really believe in a great Russia? Does he actually want to help his country? Or is this use of nationalism just his latest tactic?
Putin thinks he’s special, but his deep paranoia keeps him grounded. Somewhat. I don’t believe for one moment that he is actually trying to create a great country. I firmly believe he is motivated by greed and fear. He’s doing his best to maintain status quo so that he can stay in power and keep his associates happy. I think he has a great fear of his “friends” turning on him. He’s afraid of having the same fate of Indira Ghandi. He’s afraid of his friends ratting him out and exposing all the secrets. This is a very selfish, vain, and greedy man. He couldn’t care less about the well-being of the general population. He only seeks to keep them distracted so they don’t catch on to his crimes.
The Kolesnikov piece…
I think it was meant to be a threat. It was a warning for the mercenaries to get their shit together. I think Ben/Mark are right when they suggest at the beginning of the conflict Putin sought to scoop up all of Eastern Ukraine. It’s no longer going as plan and the mercenaries are really fucking up. He’ll back them as long as he can turn the news into decent propaganda. I don’t know what will happen but I don’t think it will be much different from the Georgia incident. The decision he makes won’t be for the sake of ideology. He will take the path that provides him the best propaganda material.
Is Putin the type to “lock himself in the bunker”?
Not exactly. He is motivated by greed and power. He is not a man of ideology. Russia is a sinking ship and Putin is going to stay on it BUT only to take advantage of the situation. I think he’s aware that he can’t fix what troubles Russia (bcs all of the issues are caused by the Putin System, that is its fault), so he’ll help himself to the pot while he still can.
Is Ukraine Putin’s end?
I think it’s really apparent that Putin’s fucked up domestically. Ukraine is his undoing. He took Crimea to boost nationalism and flood the country with propaganda. Crimea was an opportunity for him to cement his public support base. It pissed off the West enough so that the consequences (sanctions) provided an excuse/reason for the shitty economy he had no solution for. It also gave his friends new sources for theft. The economy won’t recover from this any time soon. He’ll probably turn to Chinese banks as suggested but those are poor poor alternatives to European funding sources. Plus the theft in relation to funding Crimea projects and “let’s become independent from the West” projects will divert funding to much needed sectors. This will only add to the discontent (inflation, unemployment, poor lending rates etc.).
So I agree that Putin is in a corner. But I agree with Mark in that they’re saying he’s dangerous ^domestically, not internationally.
Putin’s apparent laziness…
I liked Ben’s last question but I think it’s a little unfair of him to criticize Putin’s morning habits. Moscow is 8 hours ahead of D.C. Moscow is 3 hours ahead of London. Moscow is 2 hours ahead of Berlin. If Putin woke up at 6 am like most of world leaders it would almost be wasted time because the rest of the world (or rather the most important political/economic centers to Moscow) is still asleep. Putin’s late rising puts him mentally in the same timezone as his peers.
I enjoyed Ben’s comments about public sentiment in Eastern Ukraine. It’s true that in Ukraine there exists ethnic/linguistic divides, but I think it’s become apparent that this diversity is not really significant. The Kremlin based the invasion on the idea more people in the East would support them. We’re finding that most people have fled. Most of the “rebel militia” is actually hired mercenaries and Russian Security agents and there’s no real significant local presence. Plus, you have to remember shortly after the Crimean referendum we found out that the % of voters was low and that of those who voted very few voted in favor of the referendum. The invasion is going sour because the Kremlin underestimated local support. And I think we need to stop portraying Ukraine as a dichotomy of sorts.
I found it really interesting how Ben referred to Shuvalov as “the real Prime Minister.”
I hated Mark’s final comments. I’d like to see his evidence on why he thinks Putin has physically/intellectually/politically abstracted himself from Moscow. And I don’t think Putin is a “weak monarch.” In his first two terms he appeared absolutely formidable because he was still cracking down on society and creating his power base. He used those terms to tame the elite. He’s still controlling them. It just doesn’t appear that way because he’s already done all the hard work.
Mark and Brian really need to get over their need to compare Russia with G7 countries. Russia is not like other countries. They need to accept the fact that Russia has its own political system, and to effectively analyze this system they need to take it on its own and not in a comparison.
um…..about Kudrin, I notice that Kudrin’s suggestions and worries have no influence on Putin, as well as on recent policies. Kudrin repeatedly impressed his concerns, but the reality is the reality. Russia is isolating itself, politically and economically.(Just as Putin is isolated from the world).
There are some analyses about Kolesnikov’s article, given that Putin’s popularity increased constantly, someone believe Putin would go ahead, not give up, I am agree with Brian the statement could be considered as a sign of compromise, because of the lack of reason that make the Kremlin intentionally show the posture. But there are a variety of pressure on Putin’s choice, his ultra-nationalist supporters would push him ahead, his propagandists have prepared the certain scenario for him, with his order.
As for the block of information, I guess reading Western media, distrusting his subordinates and no one said any truth to him could co-exist in the Kremlin?