Putin: leader of nationalist Russia, master of “realpolitik” — leverage, punishment, reward — the Boss of bosses, capricious and absolute.
Whatever the game, why play one side or the other when you can own the whole board?
Medieval Political Absolutism v Modern Democratic Societies
KGB Colonel, President, Emperor Putin has taken Russia back the one giant step to an authoritarian system reinforced by secret police — today’s FSB supports more staff per capita than ever did the KGB — capable of presenting events for public political perceptual control as with the Moscow Apartment Bombings and the Russian Army’s after-hours (deeply unofficial) brutalizing of Chechen villages in such a way as to drive the men into the waiting camps of Chechen rebels. He has succeeded in abetting greater chaos and conflict in the world, especially in Syria, while balancing the tension between adversaries that may stall change but keep all of the businesses, licit and perhaps illicit, running.
BackChannels credits Putin with turning Erdogan’s pretty little head back toward the feudal glory of the sultanate — or something like it — with the help of Turkish Stream, encouraging the family business in Hungary, and aiding with the election of the formerly more autocratic President (“Fake News”!) Trump in the United States (the French, better knowing what they’re about, didn’t quite go for his Marine Le Pen; Trump, BC presumes, has been tempered by having gotten himself into a job involving personalities as large as himself and powers greater than known in his organization — America’s democracy has not been overwhelmingly wowed or easily walked over). The popular perception of Putin may respond opposite the viewer’s interests: for old lefties, he’s the world’s greatest reactionary and using revived militarism and the Russian Orthodox Church to assuage bad feelings attending the insult of expanding financial hardship associated with related ambitions in Syria and Ukraine and, ultimately, the way the guy at the top gets his hooks into the best performing businesses.
In Russia, there’s protest and resistance to Putin, but there is no competition for the power he has amassed and his ability to . . . rearrange the world along feudal lines.
And for “righties”, he’s still the go-to for “socialist” dictatorships like Assad’s.
Never mind that Assad via the KGB-style political theatrical “Assad v The Terrorists” has been building Syria down, enough so, and so desperately so, for Putin to permanently expand Russia’s military footprint in Hafez’s old sandbox.
After the one step backward into 19th Century and earlier Russian paternal authoritarianism, aristocracy, imperialism, and resurgent nationalism, one may wonder what may be the “two steps forward” if any are ever taken as needs must be: whether Putin likes it or not, the Russian Federation is, alas, multicultural and perhaps yearning — as Navalny might have it — for the liberal devilishness that are “rule of law” and “responsive and responsible governance”.