Fiona Hill, a Director at The Brookings Institution, is a former national intelligence officer for Russia for the US and has recently co-authored, Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. She talked about the book at Chatham House. The book explores Mr Putin’s character through six facets of his identity. It is intriguing how someone who was number two or operated in the shadows could suddenly end up being at the top of the Russian political system and actually become quite popular in a Russian context.
The six facets are described as;
i) THE STATIST – the man who would restore Russia to its former glory and strengthen the institution of the presidency,
ii) HISTORY MAN – which is how Putin, in restoring the state tries to identify and to draw direct links between himself and reformers and major political figures of the tsarist era,
iii) THE SURVIVALIST – which picks up on the notion of Russia being the great state that survives every calamity – war, invasion, great deprivation and great political upheavals. Putin himself is the child of survivors of the the great blockade by the Nazis in World War II. He’s the only surviving child of the family,
iv) THE OUTSIDER – because Putin was an outsider to the Soviet system. His parents were not part of the intelligentsia and came from very humble origins. He was recruited to the KGB in the 1970 when they decided that they needed to bring people who were outside the normal recruitment channels for fresh thinking. He was often posted away from the centre and actually missed perestroika and glasnost,
v) FREE MARKETEER – with Putin becoming the deputy mayor of St Petersburg he was put in charge of overseeing the establishment of new businesses. This gave Putin an appreciation for a very specific kind of market capitalism, one in which vulnerabilities and connections were the main glue of relationships,
vi) THE CASE OFFICER – the biggest role in his career as a KGB officer. There are two things that Putin himself singles out that he learned as a case officer – working with people (obviously manipulating people as well as working one-on-one and making connections and relationships and recruiting people) and working with and processing information.
These skills are what he uses effectively as the leader of the nation.