Staunton, October 8 – Deciding whether a leader is a tactician or a strategist profoundly affects how that individual’s actions are treated. If he is viewed as a tactician, then each of his moves will be viewed and treated largely independent of all others; but if he is seen as a strategist, then each of his steps will be seen and responded to in terms of a broader picture.
It has become “a commonplace,” Moscow analyst Vladislav Inozemtsev says, that Putin is a tactician of genius but also that the Kremlin leader is someone “who does not have a long-term strategy for the development of his own country” and thus “has not formulated a political and economic model” which he would like to implement (snob.ru/selected/entry/98957).
But in fact “everything is not so simple,” Inozemtsev argues; and “the more dynamic becomes the activity of the Russian president, the greater basis there appear to be to conclude that behind it is concealed a quite precise strategic plan.” The Moscow analyst says he wants to “try to reconstruct” the Kremlin leader’s concept.
Putin, the Moscow analyst points out, frequently has called himself a conservative, “but his conservatism is of a very special type.” Indeed, it would be better to call him “a preservationist,” someone who views “stability not an analogue of European sustainable development but rather as one of no development at all.”
Putin views “any changes as a source of threat,” be they things like homosexuality or the spread of the Internet or a change in governments in place. He sees “unified Europe” as “having lost any political meaning” and the information revolution as “incapable of the unrestrained growth of consumption of raw materials in developed economies.
And at the same time, Inozemtsev says, Putin “sees in Orthodoxy the main social ‘foundation’ and similary does not doubt in the rapid return of oil prices to one hundred US dollars or more.”
This view of the world, one very different from that of most people who today call themselves conservatives “should not be considered anomalous” historically. It reflects the cyclical view of history that Plato, Tacitus and Plotinus advanced in the ancient world. And it has occasionally resurfaced since that time.
“It seems to me,” Inozemtsev continues, “that the strategy of the Russian resident is based precisely on a cyclical treatment of global dynamics” in way that is also reflected in the acceptance of others of “the end of history” and then “with what piety” history’s “’return’” was acknowledged.
If that is the correct perspective, he suggests, “the Putin doctrine of ‘stability’ and ‘conservativism’ can be considered rational only in one situation – in the case that we view everything that has taken place in the last several decades as a gigantic deviation from the norm” and a necessarily “temporary” one at that.
“Only if one starts from the proposition that the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union was a temporary mistake, that ‘morals return like the seasons,’ that democracy is a short-lived and unstable state of society period imperial periods of its history, that peaceful coexistence and deep economic integration are no more than a prelude to an era of new Versailles and Potsdams do the actions of Vladimir Putin look like the embodiment of truly strategic thinking.”
But if that is how he views the world, then “the task of a great political leader is not to try to catch up with anyone or to search for the proper niche for accelerated development,” but rather to adopt “a real strategy” of opposing any change, of freezing development, of cleansing society morally, and of preparing to block any moves toward change.
Inozemtsev says that he very much hopes that he is mistaken, but he unfortunately has concluded that “at the head of the Russian state stand a man who really, as Angela Merkel said, ‘lives in another world,’” one very much at odds with contemporary reality.
In Putin’s world, “the main strategy is to secure by many means the absence of change, to constantly distract people by shifting the object of their attentions from one senseless subject to another, to allow the outflow of qualified and independent citizens capable of demanding reforms and changes, and to torpedo modernization in order to preserve at etatist economy.”
Viewed from within this paradigm, the Moscow analyst says, “absolutely all the actions of the Russian president look consistent and rational – but only” within that worldview. But at some point this approach will lead to collapse because it puts Russia on a path which is absolutely opposed to modernization as understood almost everywhere else.
Unfortunately, Inozemtsev says, this is exactly what Putin appears to have decided to do; and it is likely to last for some time because “this is hardly the whimsical choice of a dilettante but rather a [carefully constructed if fatally flawed] strategic course.”