Putin, Ruler with a Fortress Men­tal­ity

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by Tae­hwan Kim

Vladimir Putin is Rus­sia’s long­est-serv­ing ruler since Joseph Stalin. Over his 18-year reign, Rus­sia ex­pe­ri­enced im­pres­sive eco­nomic growth, due in great part to high oil prices, fol­lowed by eco­nomic de­cline and stag­na­tion, po­lit­i­cal au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, and an in­creas­ingly as­sertive, anti-western for­eign pol­icy. What ex­plains Rus­sia’s evolv­ing do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal econ­omy, and its for­eign pol­icy, un­der Putin?

Many ac­counts have been of­fered, based on a nar­row ra­tio­nal­ist rea­son­ing or on the ir­re­sistible pull of his­tor­i­cal, geo­graphic, or cul­tural fac­tors. Syra­cuse Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor Brian Tay­lor de­fies con­ven­tional wis­dom and finds his an­swer in the col­lec­tive men­tal­ity shared by Putin and his close co­horts — the “code of Pu­tin­ism” — that com­bines emo­tion, habit and ideas: Putin and his co­horts view Rus­sia’s po­si­tion in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a “be­sieged fortress” un­der threat from in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal en­e­mies work­ing to weaken the coun­try. This is re­in­forced by habits of con­trol, or­der and loy­alty ac­quired in the Soviet era, and emo­tions re­lated to loss of sta­tus, re­sent­ment, de­sire for re­spect, and vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Tay­lor con­tends that the way Putin pur­sues his ideal of a strong state has ac­tu­ally led to a weak state, and has led to for­eign-pol­icy choices that are hold­ing back Rus­sia’s stand­ing in the world. Tay­lor con­cludes that Pu­tin­ism may be com­ing to a dead end.

The Code of Pu­tin­ismBy Brian D. Tay­lor Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2018, 264 pp. $99.00 (Hard­cover)

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