Vladimir Putin has his own idealized view of himself as CEO of “Russia, Inc.” But rather than leading a transparent public corporation, he runs a closed boardroom, not answerable to its stakeholders. Now that his corporation seems to be in crisis, with political protests marking Mr. Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, will the CEO be held accountable for its failings? “For more than a dozen years—the equivalent of three American presidential terms— Vladimir Putin has presided over the largest nation on the planet, the second most powerful nuclear arsenal, and massive natural resources. Yet there is still debate about who he really is. Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy have gone a long way in answering that question, starting with the title, which makes a crucial point: even though ‘Mr. Putin’ was, in his upbringing and early career, a prototype of the Soviet man, he’s no longer ‘Comrade Putin.’ His aim is not the restoration of communism. He has made a deal with the capitalists who have thrived in Russia over the past two decades: they support him in the exercise of his political power, and he supports them in amassing their fortunes.”—from the foreword by Strobe Talbott
Brookings Institution senior fellows and veteran Russia watchers Hill and Gaddy (The Siberian Curse) bring high-level expertise to bear on the enigma of Vladimir Putin in this illuminating study. The authors divide Putin s political identity into six basic personas, including the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketer and, perhaps most crucially, the Case Officer. Their analysis of each combines enough historical background and contemporary analysis for a graduate-level seminar along with an accessible writing style that won t deter more casual readers. The History Man, for example, is shown as habitually invoking Russia s hallowed past to justify his obsession with an ever-looming threat of disorder, while the Case Officer uses persuasive, focused techniques of gaining a target s confidence, first learned in the KGB, to enlist every Russian in the service of the state. Though Hill and Gaddy s prose often bears a think tank report s heavy imprint, the authors final verdict on the Putin era is astute, warning that unless Putin can adapt and perhaps loosen his grip, this seemingly indispensable man will get the blame when his personalized governance apparatus no longer functions well enough to support his nation s needs.