It is reported that the young Vladimir Putin was described by his KGB trainers as having “a reduced sense of danger.” It is hard to know if this is a genuine verbatim quote from his mentors alarmed at the apparent reckless potential of the young Soviet spy or if it has been retro-fitted into his biography by modern-day Kremlin spin doctors to reinforce the image of President Putin as the hard man of international politics.
Either way, it—usefully for the Russian leadership—implies a character that is cut from a different cloth than his adversaries in the West and one not to be underestimated when it comes to the brutal business of bringing Ukraine back into the fold.
What is apparent from the drama over Ukraine is how little U.S. and European leaders seem to have a clear sense of President Putin. Is he a master tactician with a powerful determination to restore Russian power and pride or is he more a superb improviser with deft crisis management skills? He evidently enjoys and excels at this type of raw knuckle politics but beyond the nationalist rhetoric does he have a coherent plan to fulfil a restoration of Russia’s status? And how far will he go to in defending what he sees as the legitimate right of Russia to defend its interests? [Read more...]