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Putin: The person and his motives – what we all know concerning the Russian dictator | World Information

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Vladimir Putin is the person who introduced struggle again to Europe, by sending his tanks into Ukraine on 24 February final yr.

Little is thought concerning the murky workings of the Kremlin and of Mr Putin’s mind-set – to his residents, he’s each “the {old} man” and the image of Russia. To his Kremlin associates, he affords a way of clinging to energy and wealth.

In our Ukraine live blog this week we ran an eight-part sequence posing inquiries to consultants about what the Russian president’s motivations are.

Here is what they mentioned.

Half one: How has Putin’s youth impacted his profession?

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Vladimir Putin grew up within the ruins of post-war Leningrad – now generally known as St Petersburg – and from a younger age was operating with road gangs.

His childhood expertise was “comparatively tough” and left him “continually searching for safety” with an consciousness of “truly how harmful and precarious life may be”, mentioned Mark Galeotti, principal director of Mayak Intelligence and a senior affiliate fellow on the Royal United Providers Institute (RUSI).

He was left wanting to affix the “greatest gang on the town”, and so after he left college he joined the KGB – the safety service for the then Soviet Union.

The younger Putin was additionally described by Philip Brief, journalist and writer of Putin: His Life And Instances, as a “little bit of a tearaway” and a “younger hooligan” – though “not fairly a lot as he later made out”.

Whilst a youth, he would play his playing cards near his chest and “by no means gave very a lot away about himself or what he was pondering”, Mr Brief mentioned – traits he has carried on into his presidency.

“He was truly fairly shiny and shocked his classmates by the way in which he understood tough Russian writers like Gogol,” the writer mentioned.

Then there was additionally his propensity for taking “loopy dangers”.

“When he grew to become older, he was conscious of that and compensated by being extraordinarily cautious,” Mr Brief mentioned.

However after all, there have been main exceptions – not least the struggle in Ukraine, which he’s now “personally invested” in.

Half two: How did the autumn of the Soviet Union influence Putin?

The Soviet Union – made up of 15 republics, together with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – was as soon as the biggest nation on this planet, occupying practically a sixth of the Earth’s land floor.

When it fell and dissolved in 1991, it was a serious shock to these residing underneath its rule.

“It was an enormous transition which individuals in most nations do not undergo. From being a part of a superpower which had huge political and geopolitical attain, to out of the blue discovering you had been a part of Russia,” mentioned Mr Brief.

For Russians, it meant that lots of the assumptions they grew up with had been now mentioned to be false, he mentioned.

“It was extraordinarily tough – a very horrible interval that they needed to undergo within the Nineties,” he continued.

Dr Alan Mendoza, founder and government director of the Henry Jackson Society, mentioned this “clearly affected [Putin] very considerably”.

“I am undecided Putin was essentially a believer in communism however he was a believer within the system, that a lot was evident,” he mentioned.

Mr Putin, who would probably have needed to work his approach up the KGB, would have seen his aspirations “torn aside”, Dr Mendoza mentioned.

He noticed the “chaos” of the Nineties in Russia, and for the final 20 years has been attempting to revive the “misplaced empire”.

Dr Mendoza added Mr Putin’s long-held sense of Russian nationalism and imperialism – mirrored in his view of Ukrainians not being “actual folks” – goes all the way in which again to “that trauma of the misplaced Soviet Union”.

Half three: Why is Putin so afraid of being assassinated?

Repeated stories have emerged that Mr Putin is fearful of being assassinated – and it is difficult to say how a lot is paranoia, and the way a lot might be grounded in proof.

“I feel as soon as you have been in energy for as a few years as Putin has, your pure state is paranoia,” mentioned Dr Mendoza.

He added: “You see it in that you do not know the place the man is at any given time, [and he’s] assembly folks with excessive distances between them. There’s clearly a way that individuals are out to get him – it is on his thoughts, very a lot so.

“Some folks in all probability are out to get him. After 25 years on the high, you do amass enemies alongside the way in which – however a part of it’s imagined.”

Professor David Lewis, an knowledgeable in international politics on the College of Exeter, thinks it could return additional.

“Putin has at all times had a robust sense of insecurity, maybe stemming from his background within the KGB and his expertise of the collapse of the USSR,” he mentioned.

The Russian president believes it’s his mission to “break the dominance of the West in worldwide politics and ‘make Russia nice once more'” – so it’s “not stunning” he believes Western safety providers, Ukrainian intelligence and Russian rivals are all plotting in opposition to him.

It may be the “inevitable results of being absolutely the ruler of a quite cannibalistic system”, mentioned Mr Galeotti.

“Putin encourages his varied underlings to compete in opposition to one another. And I feel that is partly as a result of he assumes that frankly, that is the pure order.”

Half 4: Does Putin care about what unusual Russians assume?

For Mr Galeotti, there are two explanation why Mr Putin truly does care about how he seems to Russian residents.

Mr Putin is “clearly fascinated by his historic legacy and the way future generations will bear in mind him”, he mentioned.

But additionally, on a extra pragmatic stage, “probably the most profitable police states are those during which those that are being managed do not realise it, or truly find yourself backing the regimes exploiting them”.

For Russians, he mentioned, there are two Putins – and it is mirrored within the truth his approval rankings are usually about 80%, whereas his belief rankings lean nearer to 30%.

So why would Russians approve of somebody they do not belief?

“There’s Putin, the icon of Russia – that turns into a illustration … If individuals are requested in the event that they approve of Putin, it is whether or not you approve or not of Russia.

“There’s additionally Putin the politician, the human being, and I feel that’s mirrored by the belief score.”

Nonetheless, Mr Galeotti mentioned there’s now more and more a way that Mr Putin’s “sell-by date has come and gone”.

“I bear in mind final time I used to be travelling in Russia, earlier than I used to be banned, I used to be eavesdropping listening to folks discuss with him because the ‘{old} man’.”

Sir Andrew Wooden, a former British ambassador to Russia, says there’s a stage of apathy from Russians.

“They’d quite not give it some thought. That is truly fairly typical. Should you return to the way in which they give the impression of being again at Stalin instances and Soviet instances, there are all types of issues they’d quite not take into consideration,” he mentioned.

Sir Andrew added: “So the way in which [Mr Putin] portrays it as a time of triumph and Russia was nice, they gained the struggle in 1945, they take that as completely superb. It proves that they are nice folks, however they do not take into consideration the quantity killed within the camps, the variety of folks killed on the battlefield. They do not like to consider that as a result of it is too hurtful.”

Half 5: What does Putin’s shut circle within the Kremlin consider him?

This generally is a tough query to reply, even for many who have studied Russia for a few years.

Sir Andrew mentioned considered one of Mr Putin’s major traits is to “communicate to as few folks as he can” – that means there are few folks within the Kremlin, and even fewer within the shut circle round him.

John Foreman, who was not too long ago Britain’s defence attaché in Moscow, mentioned the shut circle would have been collectively for 25 to 30 years.

Russia has a “very completely different nature of energy” based mostly on “persona, friendships and {old} hyperlinks”, he mentioned.

“These selections are taken by blokes who used to go to high school collectively, to speak with one another, or play Judo and so forth.”

Mr Foreman continued: “All of them know that they depend on Putin for energy and wealth. So once they have personal ideas about Putin, they’d by no means categorical these in public once they know the implications of transferring in opposition to one another and being seen to be disloyal.”

They aren’t “silly folks” and they’re conscious of what’s occurring with the struggle, he mentioned, however “at this stage they’ve calculated that it is higher to stay with who you realize than danger a change of management” – and face dropping their positions, and probably their lives.

Professor Lewis agrees Mr Putin’s shut circle has an “huge quantity to lose” if he’s ousted from energy.

However he additionally thinks a lot of these round Mr Putin share his worldview – with some taking an much more excessive place – believing the West is a “hostile power” that’s “utilizing Ukraine as a proxy to assault Russia”.

Sir Andrew believes Mr Putin’s shut circle is now focusing solely on the struggle, with many of the establishments that usually make up a authorities now abolished.

“In the beginning, he did have a authorities. He did have individuals who may advise him on the financial system,” he mentioned.

However these with native authority throughout Russia have “all been successfully despatched out”, so the choices Mr Putin makes now are “very a lot based mostly on what he believes”, Sir Andrew mentioned.

Half six: Why would Putin meet Prigozhin for tea after branding him a ‘traitor’?

The Russian personal mercenary group Wagner, led by its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, staged a short-lived rebellion in opposition to Moscow’s navy leaders in June.

Quickly after, it emerged Prigozhin – who Mr Putin had branded a “traitor” – had gone for tea with the Russian president.

And final month, he appeared at a summit between Russia and African leaders. So, what’s going on?

“The assembly makes extra sense when you consider Putin’s Russia as just like a mafia organisation,” mentioned Professor Lewis.

“There isn’t any rule of legislation, however solely casual agreements amongst rival teams brokered by Putin as a sort of godfather determine.”

He mentioned it could have made sense for Mr Putin to dealer an “casual deal” to maintain Prigozhin alive and a small Wagner power intact, however hold it underneath the heel of the Kremlin so it might probably do Moscow’s bidding in elements of Africa and elsewhere.

Mr Brief, the writer and journalist, agrees that Mr Putin “nonetheless sees a job” for Prigozhin, at the least for now.

He says that when Mr Putin was deputy mayor of St Petersburg, he “needed to take care of felony sorts like Prigozhin and he discovered methods of coping with them, methods of constructing use of them”.

“The system that he is constructed as president depends on enjoying off one faction in opposition to one other, one group in opposition to one other, in order that no group can turn out to be too highly effective and may truly threaten the central energy,” Mr Brief added.

Mr Foreman mentioned the Russian president had appeared “disturbed” and “upset” because the rebel came about.

However Prigozhin’s assembly with Mr Putin would have been just like the warlord “bending knee earlier than its grasp, begging for forgiveness, and pledging his loyalty”.

Nonetheless, it seems Prigozhin’s future prospects probably dangle within the steadiness.

“He has highly effective enemies, Prigozhin, and what occurs to him within the medium time period I feel is completely different to what occurs to him within the brief time period,” Mr Foreman mentioned.

Professor Lewis added: “In any case, Prigozhin shouldn’t loosen up an excessive amount of. Putin’s profession means that he firmly believes the {old} adage – that revenge is a dish greatest served chilly.”

Half seven: Will Putin ever again down in Ukraine?

The “fantasy of [Putin’s] energy has been tarnished” over greater than 500 days of struggle, mentioned Mr Foreman – however that does not imply he’ll again down.

“I nonetheless assume he is all into his mission. I feel he thinks his mission may be very historic … it is a part of his private legacy,” he mentioned.

Mr Foreman mentioned the Russian president shall be conscious about the implications for him personally if he fails in Ukraine, and subsequently there’s “no value [Russia] will not pay”.

“There is no price in both nationwide wealth or folks they will not pay. No one’s spoken in public in opposition to it, he is received no opposition at dwelling.”

Mr Putin views the West as “totally weak”, Mr Foreman mentioned, so it’ll take Russia being defeated on the battlefield for Moscow’s troops to be pulled out, in his view.

“I feel the one hope for Russia is the Ukrainians handle to kick the Russians out,” he mentioned, though that is “trying much less probably this yr”.

Dr Mendoza, founder and government director of the Henry Jackson Society, mentioned Putin will even concentrate on the historic context.

The final Soviet chief to gamble with such excessive stakes was Nikita Khrushchev through the Cuban missile disaster – a 13-day showdown between the US and Russia broadly thought of to be the closest the world has come to nuclear Armageddon.

Dr Mendoza mentioned the identical query was posed throughout that disaster: “Can Khrushchev again down?”

“And it seems that he may again down however the parole was up and, after all, he was faraway from energy afterwards.”

Subsequently it is potential Mr Putin might again down, however Dr Mendoza mentioned: “He’ll be totally conscious of the Khrushchev comparability.”

He added: “Having principally staked his entire life’s work on profitable this struggle, it’s extremely tough to see how [Putin] may again down after which survive the repercussions.”

Half eight: What occurs to Putin if he loses the struggle in Ukraine?

It is value remembering that Russia has occupied elements of Ukrainian territory, in Crimea and within the Donbas area, since 2014.

Whereas Ukraine’s purpose is to recapture all territory taken by Russia since then – not simply areas occupied for the reason that 2022 invasion – navy analysts imagine this shall be extraordinarily tough to realize.

Subsequently, it is difficult to say when precisely Russia has “misplaced” the struggle.

“Russia solely loses the struggle when Putin says so. Even when the Ukrainian navy inflicts a serious defeat on Russian troops and forces them to withdraw from most Ukrainian territory, Russia may nonetheless combat on in Crimea and the Donbas and proceed to assault Ukrainian cities with missiles,” mentioned Professor Lewis.

“Russia’s highly effective propaganda machine would attempt to promote defeat as victory.”

Mr Brief mentioned the Russian president would be capable to declare victory if Moscow had been in a position to maintain onto something greater than it had at the start of the 2022 invasion.

He mentioned the Russian president would use this in opposition to the West, which is supporting Ukraine, to say: “All of them got here in and backed Ukraine, and we nonetheless managed to get greater than we had earlier than. They hadn’t been in a position to stop us.”

However Professor Lewis mentioned if Ukraine managed to maintain its pre-2022 territory, Mr Putin’s credibility could be “severely broken” and Russia’s political elites “would in all probability determine that Putin had turn out to be a legal responsibility and search for a change”.

“A far-right militaristic regime may emerge that might search revenge for Russia’s defeat,” he mentioned.

“However it’s extra probably that Putin would get replaced by a determine from his present entourage, who would search for a take care of the West to finish the struggle.

“All situations are in play, together with a interval of chaos as completely different factions battle for energy.”

Mr Foreman, the latest British defence attaché to Moscow, mentioned Mr Putin “spent the pandemic sitting in considered one of his bunkers studying historical past” and is aware of that in Russian historical past, dictators can and have been changed.

“So he is effectively conscious, however whether or not he is allowed to retire to a dacha [second home] or whether or not he is killed… Russian transitions of energy are usually related to some type of blood. I feel he clings on as a result of he is aware of what’s going to occur to him.”

Nonetheless, Mr Brief believes it’s extremely unlikely the Russian military may be pushed completely out of Ukraine – and subsequently Mr Putin’s place is “safe” – for the foreseeable future, at the least.



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