Vladimir Putin has been Russia's dominant political figure for more than a decade, but he is a man of many identities. He likes to play roles. The images that his public relations team has orchestrated range from big game hunter to scuba diver to biker, even night club crooner. It is reminiscent of the British cartoon character Mr. Benn. Observers have variously said, he has no face, no substance, no soul; he is "the man from nowhere" —a nobody, yet a man who can appear to be anybody. Of course, Putin is not a "nobody"; he only wants the world to see him that way, and he has gone to extraordinary lengths throughout his life to conceal who he really is.
In this book, Russian experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy answer the question, "Who is Mr. Putin?" Drawing on many sources, including their own personal encounters with him, they argue that there are, in fact, several "real Putins." His outlook has been shaped by many influences —a combination of archetypical Russian mentality, a very close reading of Russian history and literature, his own early life, his KGB training, his time in East Germany, his experiences in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, his early days behind the scenes in Moscow, and his time at the helm of the Russian state. Understanding his multidimensional nature is and should be important for U.S. and other policymakers trying to decide how to approach and interact with him.
While uncovering the many real identities of Mr. Putin, the authors concentrate on five essential ones: Putin the Statist, Putin the Survivalist, Putin the Outsider, Putin the Free Marketeer, and Putin the Case Officer. For each of these identities, they explain what it is, why it is important for understanding Putin, and trace its roots and evolution.
Finally, they examine the nature of the personalized system that Putin has built up and why it can be understood as a logical result of his personality. He has an idealized view of himself as CEO of "Russia, Inc." In reality, his leadership style is more like that of the don of a mafia family. The system is personalized, private, informal; enforcement is not by positive incentives but by threats. Putin the CEO has not been the executive of a transparent public corporation; he's been one who operated in the closed board room of a privately held corporation, feeling no need to disclose the shareholders or motivate any decisions. And now his corporation is in crisis. The public is demanding that Putin the CEO be held accountable for its failings.
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Fiona Hill is director of the Center on the United States and Europe and the Stephen and Barbara Friedman senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 2006 to 2009, she served as the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. Clifford Gaddy, an economist specializing in Russia, is senior fellow in the Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development programs at Brookings. Hill and Gaddy are coauthors of The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold (Brookings, 2003).Review:
“Of the many biographies of Vladimir Putin that have appeared in recent years, this one is the most useful, particularly to foreign-policy makers, many of whom must work with a crude or muddled understanding of what makes the Russian leader tick.” -- Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
“There's Mr. Putin, by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy. Insightful.”–- Vice President Joseph Biden in Rolling Stone
"[T]his is not just another Putin biography. It is a psychological portrait, a handbook providing sometimes speculative but well-informed answers to the question that has trailed the ex-KGB colonel from St Petersburg ever since he stepped out of the shadows and on to the international stage when he became Russia’s prime minister in 1999: “Who is Mr Putin?” -- Neil Buckley, Financial Times
"Since Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin, Russia-watchers have revisited the perennial puzzle of 'Who is Mr. Putin?'. Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, scholars at the Brookings Institution, have produced the most illuminating study so far..." -- Angela Stent, Georgetown University, in Survival
"With so many one-dimensional portraits of the Russian leader, the new offering by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy is a refreshing change of pace.” -- Nikolas Gvosdev, Naval War College, in The National Interest.
“Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin is a readable and informed portrait, painted by two students of Russian history who had, at various times in their careers, a front-row view.” -- David Hearst, The Guardian
“Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy’s new book Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin... is a smart and thoughtful piece of work.” -- Ivan Krastev, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Studies
“According to this intriguing book, Mr Putin’s success can be ascribed to a series of transformations in which he has posed, first as a he-man, then as a sportsman or military man, with appropriate costumes for each.” -- The Economist
"In this well-written and genuinely entertaining volume, Hill and Gaddy take us behind the theatrics and the rumors to give us a clear and intriguing view of the man himself. This book is mandatory reading for the president and his advisers." -- Robert Kagan, author of The World America Made
"Hill and Gaddy illuminate not only the recent past but offer a tantalizing glimpse of what the future may hold." -- John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of U.S. Central Intelligence.
"Theirs is a tough analysis. Not everyone will agree with every aspect. But, if you want to begin to understand Russia today, read this book." -- Sir John Scarlett, former Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
"A meticulous psychological portrait of Vladimir Putin and of the highly personalized state he has molded. How Vladimir Putin sees himself is key to how his system works, but, after twelve years of Putin Power, the nation and the people he leads have changed while Putin himself has not. Can Putin reinvent himself? Hill and Gaddy say Russia's new urban middle class wants more than a 'political performance artist."-- Jill Dougherty, former Moscow Bureau Chief, CNN
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