• 18 August, 2022
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Vladimir Putin: What’s Cooking Between Two Ears

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd) Tue, 01 Mar 2022   |  Reading Time: 5 minutes

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave an important speech on 21 February 2022. He gave his version of long historical evidence of the nonexistence of Ukraine. But his last few words gave away his game plan in Ukraine, “I consider it necessary to make a long-overdue decision to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.” But on the intervening night of 23-24 February 2022, all hell broke loose when Putin, in a televised address, declared war on eastern Ukraine.

Putin has demonstrated from his speech and acts that he is still in the driver’s seat, and it is his decisions that will shape the next stage of the confrontation, relegating the west to a mere observer.

His speech had contradictions and takeaways. His 23rd February actions further cemented this fact. He is the same person who had referred to the USSR’s fall as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” However, in this speech, he pointed out all the USSR’s mistakes. Such speeches present a unique opportunity to delve into the mind of an authoritarian leader.

Who Is Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in the household of a naval conscript. Putin studied law and joined the Committee for State Security (KGB) in 1975. In 1984 he was selected to attend the Red Banner Institute of Intelligence. He got assigned counterintelligence duties in Dresden (then East Germany) in 1985. In 1990 he became assistant dean for international affairs at Leningrad State University. 1991 saw him becoming chairman of the committee for international relations, kick-starting his political ambitions.

In 1997 President Boris Yeltsin appointed him as deputy chief administrator of the Kremlin. He became Chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 1998 and Secretary of the Russian Security Council in 1999. The same year he was appointed as prime minister by Yeltsin. In March 2000, he was elected as President of Russia, when in December 1999, Yeltsin abruptly stepped down from the Presidentship amid corruption charges. Yeltsin was granted immunity from prosecution, and a new Tzar had emerged on the horizon of the Russian Federation.

Don’t Be Naive

The whole thing looks very simple, but it isn’t. Soon after the break up of the USSR, Russia’s military-security establishment, collectively known as the Siloviki had started counting days. Siloviki means ‘Power Men’, and they were really powerful.

Finally, Siloviki’s time came in 1999. They launched a coordinated attack on anyone remotely connected with Yeltsin. Leaked damaging evidence of corruption made Yeltsin’s family, advisors and the oligarchs nervous. The Kremlin’s fixer-in-chief Sergei Pugachev’ who was later known as Putin’s banker pushed for Putin. This was after Putin had proved himself an effective bureaucrat and a loyal man. Oligarch’s fatal mistake was that they ignored Putin’s background in the security services. The fox was in the hen house.

Putin was Siloviki’s man and with Yeltsin out they were firmly in command. They started targeting one company after another and amassed a vast slush fund that served both personal greed and to finance its subterfuge and interventions abroad. Along with power and money they had an ideological glue — dream of restoration of Moscow’s imperial might.

Putin Understood The West

In 2008 when the whole world was struggling with the financial chaos, Russia invaded Georgia. As the threat became imminent, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili warned Putin of terrible consequences. He indicated to the western condemnation of aggression in the newspapers, “Do you see all these statements condemning you?” Putin was crude but straightforward, “Why don’t you roll up these papers and stick them in their arse?” Once Russian forces withdrew from breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after the five-days war, Putin told Georgian president, “Your Western friends will promise you nice things, and they won’t deliver. I won’t promise you nice things, but I will deliver.”

Putin understands western greed that paralyzes their regimes. He knows that the western governments that preach the rule of the law, free markets and respect for private property had turned a blind eye to the plunder after the collapse of the USSR and had themselves rushed to sign new deals. The western banks have been laundering the Siloviki’s funds and allowed it to penetrate into European and the American markets. The western political parties readily accept donations of dirty Russian money.

Kremlin has generously funded political parties across the west. To name a few, National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary and the Five Star movement in Italy. Russian funding has made them openly hostility to the EU and NATO. Sergei Pugachev a one-time Kremlin insider and now bitter adversary of Putin calls Siloviki’s slush fund ‘a dirty atomic bomb’.

West Undermines Russia

Western leaders often mock Russia by calling it, “a gas station masquerading as a country.” Such mocking hardens Putin’s resolve to restore Russian imperial might.

The West does not have the will to deal with Putin, so they take the nonconfrontational route. Putin is a gambler who is accustomed to taking large risks that neither west nor his opponents would ever plan or execute. He also anticipates west’s expectations and disrupts their agendas.

Putin has been brought up in a system in which truth is created by the system. He knows west’s propaganda and agendas do not weaken him at home or in Ukraine. Exposing his atrocities may weaken him among human-rights activists but at home his approval ratings never drop below 60 percent.

In The End

It is general thinking in the west that Kremlin “has many towers,” meaning pluralism exists in the chambers of power in Moscow. Vladimir Putin has shattered that view of the Kremlin. There are no advisers left in Kremlin, only sycophants. Putin proved himself to be an unscrupulous and resourceful operator, ready to use any weapon, break any rule and use any strategy to consolidate his power, prosperity and prestige.

Putin demonstrated his style during a televised meeting on breakaway territory. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Chief Sergei Naryshkin said, “I will support the proposal to support to recognise,” (formation of breakaway Republics). Putin retorted, “Will support or do support,” “Speak plainly, Sergei.” These lines would reverberate in Russian and the western minds for a long-long time demonstrating that it has been a one-man show in Moscow.

Despite all this, it is challenging to read Putin since he flips between a role of a lawyer and a KGB operative. He is threatening the west in KGB style but giving a legal shape to the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk. Even the breakaway provinces don’t get formed without chaos. No one knows the real border. His diplomats have one answer and the lawmakers have another. Most probably, it is done intentionally so that the chaos lingers on.

However, one thing is obvious. Putin will damage Ukraine to such an extent that it will never dream of joining NATO. Conflict with Russia has costed Ukraine US$280 billion between 2014 and 2020. The damage from the past few months has gone through the ceiling. The crisis is costing Ukraine US$2b to 3 billion a month, as well as losses of US$1.5b to 2 billion from the crashed currency.

Putin truly believes in Chaos — controlling it, if created by others, or creating it to control others. The chaos between Putin’s ears is terrifying even for the people closest to him. As one longtime Kremlin insider describes Putin’s thinking in the Time magazine, “The world inside his head is only his own.”

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Author
A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for various online websites and organizations.

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POST COMMENTS (33)

Capt Ravishankar

Mar 12, 2022
A simple and excellent analysis. It is the West ( primarily USA) that has forced Putin to invade Ukraine. USA has invaded, directly or indirectly, several countries since WWII causing nothing but misery in all those countries. Hope the Military Intervention by Russia ends soon and Ukraine gets back to friendly ways with Russia.

Vladimir Putin: What’s Cooking Between Two Ears - The Real Kashmir News

Mar 10, 2022
[…] Read full at:- https://chanakyaforum.com/vladimir-putin-whats-cooking-between-two-ears/ […]

Abhimanyu Jhaver

Mar 08, 2022
Once again a good article written by you Sandeep. It is always a pleasure reading your article. The person Putin is,as you describe him, on one hand you dislike him but on other hand you feel he is most suited for the job for his country. Any one who wants to reestablish the old glory of his country should be appreciated. However what matters is the means. But in the dirty game of international/ national politics, a person needs to be cunning and ruthless . The western countries have always been very selfish specially America. To counter them you require a person like Putin.

NKDahiya

Mar 06, 2022
Mr. Putin appears intent on winding back the clock more than 30 years, establishing a broad, Russian-dominated security zone resembling the power Moscow wielded in Soviet days. Now 69 years old and possibly edging toward the twilight of his political career, he clearly wants to draw Ukraine, a nation of 44 million people, back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

Ranjit Singh

Mar 04, 2022
A relevant and well researched article

James

Mar 04, 2022
Commander Dhawan..... thanks for sharing this superb analysis!

Bryan

Mar 03, 2022
Thanks for this. It further reinforces my view that Donald Trump is an idiot and if he returns to power his love affair with Putin will bode badly for the U.S.A and the rest of the western world.

Vinod Sivaraman

Mar 03, 2022
Excellent article. Events have showed us that the West is, in fact, the real 'gas' station, (all talk and no action) and perhaps Putin is more organized in his mind than he lets on. How hard these 'sanctions' bite and in which direction, eventually, will determine who the victor is in this sordid NATO-Russian misadventure. The loser is already obvious - Ukraine!!

Judithann Campbell

Mar 02, 2022
Thank you, Commander Dhawan, for always keeping us informed and aware!

Gp Capt TR Ravi VM (Ret'd)

Mar 02, 2022
Fantastic write-up.....gets a peep into the zone between the ears Putin!!!! But, most concerning fact for India is the coming Game-plan of China who is watching and ticking their foresight plans.....and probably tweaking!!!! Thanks Dear Sir

Balaji

Mar 02, 2022
From a layman perspective, like mine, this is a tug of war between the West and Russia and Ukraine and other such countries are the areas of stress - Pawns. I agree with the view of Sir Ajay Maini who has commented here earlier. The West and specifically few nations in the West have had the upper hand until now - when seen from a global, economic and few other strategic angles. These controls might or might not last longer into this century. However they don't seem to have very keen interest in having Ukrainian support for too many reasons except for maybe placing missile shields and military bases of the US and Allied forces, which can keep the Russians engaged and also drain their resources. The situation from the Russian view is looking like a pretty advantageous one, considering their claimed intention to provide true freedom for the Ukrainian people. Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Station was possibly one of the main secondary target assets as it is closer from the Crimea route of attack. All this might not drain Russia as much as it was expected to after all, considering the strategic areas being "liberated". China will be happy planning something else now that attention of the West is with Russia.

Col M Thakur

Mar 02, 2022
Excellent article

Nishikant Singh

Mar 02, 2022
Dear Sandeep Sir, A well written article giving out details Putin and his growth in the system. You articulate very well. One does not want to stop before reaching the conclusion. The situation in Ukraine is of its own making. At the time of break up of USSR, Ukraine was second richest republic with a lot of factories and assets in its territory. Initial leaders were pro Russia. The older generation still holds the same sentiment. But younger generation, with generous influence of West, is anti Russia. That has been the rallying point for politicians in Ukraine. As long as they remained neutral and not joining NATO, it was business as usual. The balance had tipped in the favour of West with present President. Something had to be done. After Georgia and Cremia, the option of military intervention was deemed to be a good one by Putin. Options Russia could have salami sliced two districts of Ukraine and hold it with force. But it wanted more. Russia could have toppled the government militarily and put his own man there. Easier said than done these days. It requires a lot of resources and frankly, does not seem to be possible in present scenario. Russia does a quick Blitzkreig offensive and goes back, claiming to have taught a lesson to Ukranian leaders. Deinduction would have been a problem and Ukrainians would have claimed victory. Still a wise option. It seems that Russian military has moved in without a clear end state defined. Seems to be a persistent problem in Military minds these days!!! If the armed forces continue to stay for long time, they will get bogged down. However, Ukraine is not Afghanistan. So owing to international pressure and subsequent talks, Russia will withdraw and most likely we will see a leader like Assaad being put in place and LICO situation continuing. Lessons for India We have taken a correct stand in the issue. But we should be ready for harsh times in near future. Our relation with West has been seriously challenged and with it our access to new technology and resources. China will use this oppurtunity to needle us in Arunancahal and Ladakh with support from Pakistan in our West and Afghan fighters in Kashmir. The earlier we get ready for challenges and prepare for it, the better. Synergy in spectrum of DIME(Dipomacy,Industrial output,Military and Economic development) is a must. P.S.: The tides of time are turning and somehow i feel that we will do well!! Winter is Coming( Or maybe it is Summer, who knows) Regards

Jatinder Pal Joshi

Mar 02, 2022
Good one. Putin is clear. He has meaaured one way communications, televised these days. Fallout? China benefits. India has to make atmanirbhar Bharat a success - every Indian has to pitch in. Hope we are ready?

Rakesh P

Mar 02, 2022
Wonderful read. I put the blame for the mess on the United States. Their ambition and cunningness have endangered the whole region.

Wendell Bruges

Mar 02, 2022
A brilliant essay, Commander. Thank you so much for churning out insightful articles at regular intervals.

Vladimir Putin: What’s Cooking Between Two Ears - Insightful Geopolitics

Mar 02, 2022
[…] Vladimir Putin: What’s Cooking Between Two Ears […]

Vishnu Unnithan

Mar 02, 2022
Good research and great insight Sandeep! I believe the Ukraine issue should have been handled diplomatically by US led NATO. Ukraine was always recognised as a conflagaration point, and should have been handled differently from other eastern European countries. A significant population of Ukraine, particularly in the eastern part of the country is Russian speaking. They are not too happy with Ukraine leaning towards the West. This is a long-standing flashpoint. Putin himself has said after NATO's Bucharest declaration in Apr 2008 that including Ukraine and Georgia in the NATO is a direct threat to Russia. Germany's Angela Merkel said that including Georgia and an Ukraine in the NATO is a recipe for disaster. Subsequently, Russia went to war with Georgia in August 2008 and currently holds about 20%of Georgian territory. Georgia was left in the cold by NATO and may not even become its member. In 2014, Russia annexes Crimea. The writing on the wall that Russia was not willing to compromise when it comes to countries/areas with shared borders and significant Russian speaking population. The point is that a guarantee from NATO and Ukraine that it would not join NATO would have prevented this war. Is that such a big deal, particularly for a country which has a large Russian leaning population. Remember that Ukraine is of vital stategic interest to Russia but not for NATO countries. Even Russian gas pipelines go through Ukraine. Why should NATO even try to make a member country which is not of vital strategic interest to it. Why poke the bear. The prospect of NATO, a cold war institution coming to its doorstep has spooked the Russians. Ukraine should remain a neutral buffer state between NATO and Russia. Nobody wants 2 powerful nuclear forces eyeball to eyeball. Now Russia has run into China's arms, which is not in anybody's interest. Today we are closer to nuclear doom than ever before. A number of nuclear nations will have their hand on the nuclear button. A simple computer mistake can trigger a global holocaust. All for one country joining the NATO. Is it worth it? I think not.

Ajay Maini

Mar 02, 2022
While the article focuses on Putin, I would like to focus on his adversaries the Americans, basically Democrats, and to some extent Republicans too. They knew if they exert pressure or make noise of Ukraine joining NATO, Putin will be drawn in. And that's exactly what they want.....a conflict for the next 20-25 years at least, that will keep US dominance over the world on some pretext, keep its economy growing, specially the mil-industrial complex, keep USD as dominant currency, bring about NATO's importance, take attention away from China where many US Congressmen/women, Senators and Businessmen have big financial interests, and reignite another cold war. War in Ukraine will stop sooner or later; may be a few more weeks; Russia is making calibrated moves and giving ample opportunities to Ukrainians/Westerners to come to the negotiating table. Let's see when this happens. The world will get divided into blocs as it was after WW 2. But, this time many things may get disrupted...….the biggest being the hegemony of the USD; Russian and China will lead this. Putin's mind is very clear on what he wants for Russia; I think, he's already achieved that in Ukraine. The West may keep saying whatever they may want to and negate his reasoning.

Cawas F Motishaw

Mar 01, 2022
An informative article giving insight of what is Putin’s thinking. As is often the case, economics are the prime reason as also the West’s attempts at expansion of NATO.

Shaurya Shandilya

Mar 01, 2022
As always, very deep research. Informative and insightful. Thank you for the lovely article. Best wishes.

Deepak

Mar 01, 2022
Brilliant article Sir.

Col Shailendra Singh Rawat (retd)

Mar 01, 2022
So is he a Good man or a bad man ? For his couNtry? For the world ? Or for the US ? US is a ageing and dying slowly as a Superpower n is looking for Crutches for support from other nations Putin may be a power hungry autocratic guy But he kNows how world order operates ... So in a way if he's able to clip US down and keep China busy ... I think it'll be good for world peace ... In the future it might be Russia pitching against China How does India gain ? What gameplay can India play to be in the pole position in the future world ?

KD Singh

Mar 01, 2022
Very well brought out Sandeep.

Raman Gupta

Mar 01, 2022
The media is flooded with Western propaganda and that makes this write up a rare gem. Well summed up

B Raja

Mar 01, 2022
Very succinct. Undoubtedly, Putin has a measure of the 'Western' philosophy on a wide range of issues. Although the Chinese have infiltrated every single institution on the 'west' they continue to remind fearful, hidden, unsure and above all unable to display gumption. This is where Putin is difference. This is, in a way, the 'end of history' and begining of a new one, geopolitically speaking. Despite the fact that, historically, Russians have always supported a singular man to show them the way /ruke; now Putin and Russia are no longer a singular entity. Hence, again, end of history. My two bits.

ANUP GHOSH

Mar 01, 2022
A very well written article Sandeep. It is so important to know the man you are dealing with and study his mind. However the west should have known that it was coming. NATO & US, over the years have engulfed Eastern Europe to make sure that Russia is never in a position to rise against them. Putin at this age - could have chosen an easier option of diplomacy without ruffling any feathers. This drastic action was to show the world - the Russians have serious Security concerns which I hope the West will take note of.

Aninda Mukherjee

Mar 01, 2022
Interesting take. Well summarised. But the bottom-line is that this conflict puts India between a rock and a hard place. The diplomatic balancing act, so far so good, may become difficult with time.

Ayushman Bajpai

Mar 01, 2022
Great Insight into the mind of one of the most powerful men of recent times! I feel it was the Chechen war that established him as one of the most loved leaders in Russia. I like reading your articles sir!

Anupam

Mar 01, 2022
Very well articulated and researched article. Gives insight into the mind of "Putin the Fox". Only future will tell what exactly he is upto...

Cdr Deepak Singh

Mar 01, 2022
Whatever be Putin, you agree that the West, as in US, has been using Europe to continue to finger Putin/Russia. All accords have gone for a six as far as US/NATO is concerned. 11 plus Eastern Europe added to NATO/EU. Would you want your enemy (NATO) sitting next doors (Ukraine)??? The action maybe wrong or discussable??

Rajesh Dhawan

Mar 01, 2022
Whatever Putin is saying his logic may be right but the way he is trying to respond is totally wrong. He is not only destroying Ukrain but has made whole Russia isolated from the world. I feel that this may be start of the fall of Putin. Everyone knows that a new world order is in formation but after this China will play a cunning role to enjoy to capture the world on economic front. China will act like monkey between fight of two cats, Russia and rest of the world and will eat away from both sides.

Deovrat Pagay

Mar 01, 2022
Russia’s main export is gas. She had been paying heavy transit fees to Ukraine to transfer energy to Europe. Hence Nordstream 2. Huge oil reserves have been discovered off the coast of Crimea, Donbas region and the Carpathian Mountains. This was of interest to the US, who wanted to develop Ukraine as a Petro State. This would result in Russia losing it’s leverage over Europe and be at the mercy of the US & Europe. Putin’s key objectives- - water supply to Crimea from Dnepr. - complete control of Ukrainian coastline & the gas basin off Crimea. - control over Donbass. - convert Ukraine into a land locked country. The time is Putin’s choosing! US is stretched after the Afghanistan debacle. Europe is trying to recover and normalize from the COVID pandemic and Russia had to act before Ukraine join NATO. This would subsequently help Russia in dealing with China. Putin will not stop until his primary objective is met. Informative article by Sandeep.

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