Decoding Putin

I think it’s fair to say that Vladimir Putin is looking like a wounded animal.

While Putin’s tough-guy demeanour and braggadocio always smacked of deep and sheer insecurity, the optimistic and brazen protests in recent days — following on from elections that took Bush vs Gore to its logical conclusion — have left his regime teetering on the brink of farce.

From the Guardian:

The thing about harsh authoritarian regimes is it’s not laws, or courts, or the rigid government hierarchy that makes them run. It is fear. And once the fear is taken out of the equation – suddenly, for the vanishing of fear is always sudden – it becomes clear that these courts, laws and hierarchies do not work. Everything just starts falling apart.

That is what happened here 20 years ago: institutions just stopped taking orders from the Kremlin. The media stopped fearing the censors who still sat in their offices at every media outlet. The police stopped applying absurd regulations, enabling the birth of private enterprise. Ultimately, the heads of the Soviet Union’s 15 constituent republics lost their fear – and the empire fell apart, in what by history’s standards was the blink of an eye.

Right now Putin is scrambling, planting his own hardliners in key positions. He has appointed his old friend, the FSB general Sergei Ivanov, as chief of the president’s staff – even though Putin has not yet been officially re-elected president. He brought back Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s odiously aggressive nationalist envoy to Nato, to serve in his cabinet in Moscow. In the coming days, he is likely to make more appointments that will show that his is a harsh, nationalist, authoritarian government. He is doing this because he is scared – and he desperately wants to bring back the fear that has enabled his rule for the last 12 years.

But Putin’s own media is already failing him. Some of his closest aides are sending out friendly signals to the protesters. They have lost the fear, and that means the whole edifice will come tumbling down. That process is unstoppable.

Could Putin not have grasped that an anonymous and technocratic two-party-regime, offering subjects — I mean citizens — the illusion of choice, is far more effective at consolidating political power in the hands of an elite? Or does he just have a fetish for old-school demagogic Stalinist grandeur and the cult of personality? Whatever: it doesn’t really matter.

What actually matters are the dangers of a vindictive and nuclear-armed regime becoming besieged and crumbling into the sand. The danger is that Putin will now be far more willing to go to war in the middle east than before, as a war will give him the opportunity to force Russians to rally around the flag and adhere to his regime. It will give him the opportunity — just as it would give Obama — to curtail civil liberties, censor the internet and launch cyber-warfare against enemies around the globe. It will give the Russian economy a war-spending stimulus.

A little psychoanalysis: Putin believes the breakup of Soviet Union was the great geopolitical disaster of the 20th Century. He has gone out of his way to resurrect many of its institutions of governance, as well as to forge a new Eurasian geopolitical alliance to act as a counterweight to American hegemony. All of Putin’s posturing and sabre-rattling, his clinging to power, and his machismo suggest that he sees himself as a messianic figure — the saviour of Russia, and the saviour of Eurasia.

Putin’s attitude can be summed up in the words of Louis XIV:

I am the State

As a messianic figure, Putin will not be afraid to lay down the lives of Russians to defend and consolidate his regime and avoid another “catastrophic” breakdown of Russian autocracy. He will not be afraid to start new wars or proxy wars in the middle east. While it is obvious to us in the West that he is a wounded animal, scrabbling to save his regime, it is obvious to him that America — dependent on foreign oil and goods, bogged down in her role as global policeman, and massively indebted to her enemies — is wounded too.

In October, Putin noted:

They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy. They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar. If [in America] there is a systemic malfunction, this will affect everyone. Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities. There should be other reserve currencies.

All of this said, I think the notion of a nuclear war is extremely unlikely. There are ways and means to fight a conventional war — even a conventional world war — without a wider nuclear holocaust. The only nation that is dangerous in that regard is North Korea — and their dependency on foreign food aid, and their new Western-educated leader placate this danger.

Even in Russia, there are military men who will do whatever they can — up to and including a coup — to prevent the reckless endangerment of global security. In America, Admiral Fox Fallon bravely fought off the Bush administration’s hunger for a war with Iran, knowing that such an action risked a global conflagration.

But to many the allure of war will be strong, even in the West. Failing economic policy, civil discontent and social inequality can be brushed beneath the edifice of nationalistic expansionism.

16 thoughts on “Decoding Putin

  1. Despite the problems with Putin who is ex KGB, he did rein in the Russian Oligarchs:

    more here

    It seems like the western oligarchs are in the process of re-ordering the global political economic system. Arabs like Sadam, Gaddafi, Mubarak were acceptable before, now they are not. Putin is similar. Why do they want these people out now when they were good before? It allows for a new order to emerge, democratic politically, economically controlled by the bankers, and bringing a whole new consumer market and people who can get into debt. The Ikwani Muslimeen (modernist Muslims who use the language of secular revolution with Islamic cover words), approve of ‘Islamic Banks’, democracy and fractional reserve. They have been presented as Islamist radicals thereby giving them a badge of honour and authenticity to the ‘Muslim masses’. This is all PR by the western oligarch bankers opening up a new debtor consumerist society. The Ikwan were also used by the British in the past in their war against Nasser. Muhammad Abduh a free mason was said by Lord Cromer (of Barings Bank), to be a natural allie to the western reformer, and he legitimised interest taking for Muslims by issuing a fatwa. The ikhwanis follow him. We are ruled by bankers, they are shaping the world.

  2. I don’t agree with the analysis Aziz.

    Putin is highly intelligent. He is an expert in International law. He has cracked down on the abuses of the oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet union. Thieves were funded by their brethren in the USA. He has righted many wrongs.

    A 2 party system is common in all countries. The problem with Russia is that the wealthy can vie for Political power. Putin is just pointing out that the “….Revolution” is a well funded vocal group.

    How many Grandmothers, who have seen real material wealth improvement in Siberia can march on the Kremlin, in opposition to the well funded middle class Moscovites? Not many!

    The true outcome will be seen at the balot box.. It is easy to pay out a election monitor, take a dodgy video, and post it as truth. Manipulation like this is commonplace.

    Russians value a strong leader. Putin’s physical health shows his strength. Images don’t deceive. He is highly respected amongth the common folk.

    I saw Ukraine ruined by the democratic criminals of the Orange revolution. That protest started out as a free rock concert. It was media manipulation at its finest.

    • I am not an expert on politics.. in fact I know what I believe, but was a bit puzzled over the accusations against Putin. My instinct tells me he is a good leader, but where could I find the truth.. I have read the reports that the west is hiring thugs to create havoc in Russia over the elections, as in every other country, but didn’t know for sure which side Putin was on. I know that Russia and China are on Irans side of the turmoil and I know that amerika has to be held accountable for the ruination of the world/people.. and Iran, with these two powers beside her, will be the ones to do this. Thank you so much for putting this complex situation into simple terms.. if not for others who were a bit confused, then for me.

    • Putin has many good attributes and intentions, too. I am being very harsh on all political figures right now, other than Ron Paul and other such insurgents. The last century was a “big politics” and “big media” bubble, and (to much dismay) these are bursting. We should not underestimate the threat to Putin from US foreign policy. They want to take Tahrir Square to Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, as I pointed out months and months ago. Eurasia wants to take Tahrir Square to London and Washington. It doesn’t look good for either side.

  3. Seems to me the west is exaggerating the scale protests against Putin, most sources report only a few thousand protesters, no large scale protests.

    • Few dozens of protesters in North Korea would be enough for a story. Institutionalized apparatus of oppression is not a bunch of hollow words. The harder they press, the harder it becomes to stand up against them. In US you don’t need to fear for your safety for criticizing president, or even inciting others for a protest. Russia has a string of journalists and activists murdered, even 10 thousand is a mass protest in such conditions. Well it won’t crumble tomorrow, but it is noteworthy.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t North Korea the first modern regime to get to second succession? (If the succession actually succeeds) Russian 140% total votes one party democracy seems to be much less stable, crumbling within decades, not generations.
      It is after all like sitting on the fence, neither full blown authoritarian – “shut up, do your thing and obey me”, nor crony democracy – “you have the sacred right to vote, we’ll just take care of processing candidates”. I guess if Medvedev turned coat and became leader of opposition to topple Putin, and than loose his sit to Putin’s resurgence the nation would be fooled. Even if all the actual policy was exactly the same, with some minimal flavoring. Like with one party being pro gay rights and the other pro traditional marriage, while they both agree on major issues of economy and foreign policy…

  4. Short Russian stocks again? I lost 95% of my investment in Russia back in 2008, then I turned to commodity shares and gold for some profit……

    • I dont do short investments, because the maximum profit is 100%. It is better to buy puts.

      I do think this is a superb opportunity to buy puts around the world. We are teetering on the brink of some very serious geopolitical and socioeconomic problems.

      • Provided they pay out in a collapse. I was about to use MF Global as my Broker for Puts on Australian Share Index futures (SPI).

        You can’t fight the Fed or ECB. Trillions are keeping up the market, to give some sense of security to the masses. The irony is, when inflation hits, the companies that own the world will still make a profit, just the Revenue and expense numbers (excluding labour costs) will be much higher.

        Most people only watch the news and see the Market is up. When there are dips, spruikers jump out saying buy the dips.

  5. Pingback: Instability Defined « azizonomics

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