By Vince Dhimos
Yes, I realize that the names of philosophy and political science courses normally are not derived by taking the last name of the founder of the school of philosophy and adding –ology at the end.
But President Vladimir V. Putin does not fit into any known niches in the academic curriculum, cannot be compared to any other human living or dead, and yet, love him or hate him, his thought and policies are turning the entire world on its head. He is neither philosopher nor political scientist but his thought is as important to geopolitics as Einstein’s is to science.
Putin was born into a monopolar world and has meanwhile ushered in a multipolar world, a concept referenced since then by the documents of almost all major Western academic and political institutions, eg, the EU, prestigious universities such as Yale, Royal Institute for International Relations, University of Oslo, and many more. A paper by the World Economic Forum has a chapter devoted the Multipolar World. The World Bank has published a document titled “Multipolarity: The New Global Economy.” And so on. Western institutions are giving credit to Putin’s Russia for its creation of the concept of a Multipolar World, even as the politicians of the countries represented by these institutions are still obsessed with “stopping Putin.”
I have news for them. The only way you can undo Putin’s influence on the world is to turn back all the calendars ten years to before Putin’s famous 2007 Munich speech, where he popularized the concept of the Multipolar World that would overturn the world controlled by a crumbling, lonely US hegemon badly in need of a partner and mentor.
What would a course in Putinology look like?
The prof would certainly want to go through Putin’s many interviews and speeches to get an idea of how this remarkable gentleman thought.
I think you would also want to include in the syllabus at least fragments of Putin’s famous bio, where he regales his interviewers with stories of his childhood, youth, family, friends, university years, the start of his career in the KGB, and beyond.
A remarkable fact is that, whereas most national leaders in our world have been and are oligarchs, Vladimir grew up in poverty. His father was wounded by the invading Nazis and the USSR considered him a hero, awarding him a home in a humble apartment complex in Leningrad. His mother then became the sole bread winner, working as a nurse in a local hospital. Both suffered through the cruel siege of their native Leningrad (Petersburg) by the Nazis, which caused the deaths of thousands by starvation and cold. The cruelty of that war was perhaps the most important factor in what it means today to be a Russian. Like the Jews, they are saying in their hearts “never again.”
Stories he tells of his early years as a fresh KGB recruit speak volumes. He recalls an informal brainstorming meeting with seasoned veterans of the agency, where possible scenarios were presented by way of training. One of the veterans threw out a hypothetical case of an order given by a superior. Putin, whose degree was in law, said, “But that is illegal.” The veteran shot back: “but it’s an order.” Putin: “It’s still illegal.” If you watch Russia’s actions in Syria, you will see reflections of this attitude toward international law. Russia does not insist that the US involvement there is illegal, though it is, but the Russian Defence Ministry has hinted at this and Russian publications make it clear that the Russians are in Syria legally at the behest of the legitimate government of Syria, and the implication is that the US is a party crasher.
On one occasion, the teen Putin was hanging out with his young comrades at a summer camp and his pals decided to go to an event involving gambling. They tried to drag Putin along but he said he did not gamble, on principal. So why does this matter?
When the world watched breathlessly as Putin entered Syria, Western journalists gloated that Russia would pay a steep price and lose this “gamble.” I had already read his bio and was inclined to believe the non-gambler Putin knew exactly what he was doing and was not taking any reckless chances. In just the first 2 years, the Russians and Syrians had the terrorists on the run or confined to a few enclaves. Even now, one of the last terrorist strongholds, in E. Ghouta, is being cleared and tens of thousands of civilians, held captive heretofore, have fled to government-controlled safe areas.
When Putin was courting his first wife Lyudmila, she asked him what career he was pursuing. Of course KGB recruits were forbidden to tell anyone, even their spouses, the true identity of their line of work. So Putin told her “I’m in human relations.”
As it turns out, he was not lying. No statesmen living or dead has been able to make so many friends and allies of leaders who by rights should have been enemies. Erdogan, Saudi King bin Abdul Aziz, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Netanyahu, Macron, Merkel, Obama, John Kerry, and US presidents who variously opposed Russia’s entry into Georgia, Syria and Ukraine, to name a few.
His political philosophy, which could perhaps best be labelled the Multipolar World, features the following concepts:
Honesty, respect and an adult attitude toward partners. Putin would never think of calling an elected president of a country a “dictator” or allowing state-owned media to do that as the West routinely does with President Assad
Respect for the sovereignty of all nations (Russia does not invade nations based on internal situations such as the way a leader deals with protests, uprisings or wars or on ill-defined red lines). His diplomatic concept also includes, however, the selling of weapons to virtually any nation that can pay for them (Putin has been criticized for arms deals with the Saudis, though the US sells them many $millions more).
Seeing no enemies (the diametric opposite of the US and its zero-sum game, where other nations are blithely labelled as “enemies” of the US on flimsy grounds and targeted with sanctions, blockades or invasion). Russia treats nations that oppose its interests as a psychologist treats patients, with respect and through negotiation rather than with ultimatums.
Respect for international law. Putin went along with the UN-approved sanctions against N. Korea even though Russia would have dealt differently with Kim Jong-Un if it had been up to him. The law was the law and he respected the will of nations.
Creative solutions to international tensions, in contrast with the ultimatum diplomacy of the US. Together with China, Russia has long planned a high speed railroad that would unite North and South Korea as a way to bring the nations together and ease tensions. The idea of a joint N-S Olympic team was almost certainly negotiated or suggested by Putin and Xi and was not welcomed by the masters of the Monopolar World, who thrive on contention between N. and S. Korea.
Decisiveness in decision making and quick action, as was shown in Crimea, with a referendum quickly organized by Putin in accordance with international law that legally made Crimea part of Russia as its people desired
Putting his people first – not the oligarchs, influential politicians, or lobbyists (a concept almost unknown in Russia) or the people who helped him into office.
Equality – showing no favourites in either foreign or domestic affairs. His policy could be formulated as “do to others as you would want them to do to you.” Yes, while Putin does not wear his religion on his sleeve, he follows Christ’s teachings in real life simply because they work.
Loyalty and respect for everyone on his team and for foreign partners (even though Putin knows, for example, that the US-backed President Boris Yeltsin almost destroyed Russia, Putin never has had a word of criticism for him or his memory, treating him as a colleague and friend).
Keeping the nation on the cutting edge of technology
Making and keeping Russia and its allies (notably China and other BRICS partners) economically and financially independent of the monopolar hegemon, including through development of an alternative to the SWIFT system of international money transfer, thereby making them immune to sanctions
Low debt. Putin’s administrative style is based on common sense and frugality. He runs his country the same way a smart head of household manages his family affairs, never spending beyond his means or substituting financialization for sound economics. Did I mention that Putin doubled the size of Russia’s economy during his first 10 years in power?
Diversification of the economy (all areas of manufacturing, arms sales, technology, software – with research emphasis on artificial intelligence – space, agriculture)
Fair competition between Russia and other nations. Russia and China both understand that making clients richer makes Russia and China richer. This stands in stark contrast to the US idea of imposing sanctions aimed at weakening the economies of competing or “enemy” nations, and attaching strings to loans such as demanding that the loan recipient implement a policy of privatization to make rich Western corporations richer and the Third World poorer (in this he is in harmony with his colleague Xi Jinping).
Just enough democracy to keep the people happy, but not the US kind, where lobbyists, media moguls and other influential people constantly overrule or manipulate the people and where 13 foreign social media trolls control elections (sorry, I couldn’t resist saying that).
The main measure of Putin’s success in implementing his political philosophy is his enormous popularity at home, where just yesterday he picked up 77% of the vote to become president for another 6 years.
I cannot overstress the importance of this managerial philosophy. If the West had any sense at all, it would drop its failed philosophy of paying debt with more debt, allowing defence lobbyists to siphon off the people’s sustenance, etc, adopt Putin’s philosophy and become a prosperous, successful ally and stop being a collapsing, jealous bully painting itself in a corner and flirting with nuclear annihilation. There is still time. Putin will welcome the West on the winning side with him. We’d all be so much happier!
The above are, I think, the main points of Putinology, but there are certainly more. Join our forum with your suggestions as to what is typical about Putin’s MO.