Saturday, January 29, 2022

Putin and His Team ‘Pursue Irrational Goals in a Rational Way,’ Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 9 – Vladimir Putin and his team should not be underrated, Vladimir Pastukhov says. “They pursue their irrational interests in completely rational ways.” And that fact allows them to achieve more than one might expect even if what they are seeking is not in the national interests of Russia.

            The London-based Russian analyst says that it is important to keep in mind this reality and also that there are the national interests of Russia, there are the interests of the Russian state, and there are the interests of Putin’s immediate entourage or clan, interests that to one extent or another Putin in fact combines (

            When analysts talk about Kremlin policies, they tend to focus on the rationality of the assumptions on which they are based, thus turning the focus away from the rational way in which Putin and his colleagues often pursue irrational goals but in a highly rational way. And they did to focus only on the interests of the clan rather than of all the interests involved.

            This second shortcoming is especially deleterious Pastukhov suggests because anyone who occupies the top position in a government is compelled to “integrate all three groups of interests,” whatever may appear to be personal preferences and those of his immediate entourage.

            No one has done away with Russian national interests, and they remain important. They include that Russia be secure, including militarily secure, that the country benefits economically from such arrangements and that the interests of others be sacrificed to achieve those ends. However “unfortunate” that may be, it is what all powers do.

            Russian state interests also continue, Pastukhov continues; and they reflect the fact that today’s Russia despite all the changes in the world over the last 30 years, continues “to seek to achieve its national interests exclusively in an imperial form.” And that means that it feels compelled to “restore the empire.”

            “It is not important that this empire be Soviet; it will be pre-Soviet or some kind of new empire. But Russia sees the only means of restoring its possibilities and interests in securing direct political control over all the surrounding space” by ensuring that no other power has a basis in any of them to challenge Moscow.

            This is what “Russian state interests” consist of as far as Moscow is concerned, the Russian analyst says.

            One should not underrate Moscow’s ability to achieve its goals in this area, something some do because they see such a goal as irrational. That is because even if it is in many ways irrational, Putin and his regime are pursuing this goal in a completely rational manner, carefully calculating what they need to do or not do to achieve their ends, however irrational.

            Consequently, Pastukhov continues, “I do not consider that Putin expresses only his own desires. He is a leader of a Stalinist type.” He carefully monitors the situation, takes things into consideration and then acts in pursuit of his goals. At the same time, it is wrong to view Putin as being profoundly influenced by any in the elite.

            What the Kremlin leader has done, the analyst says, is transform the elite into his own clientelist base. An elite has at least some independent resources and standing, but a clientelist base consists of people whose power and influence flow only from how close this or that individual is to Putin.

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