Putin, Ruler with a Fortress Mentality
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)