Tuesday, 15 November 2022 — The van says…
After affairs at Kherson, many have recently called for his resignation, yet none have to date found anyone with either his skill or statesmanship.
Way back when, one of the author’s first articles covered the career of Vladimir Putin in considerable depth. Two years later, both Russia and the rest of the world are a very different place and with current affairs being what they are, above all with the situation regarding Kherson, the Russian premier is in the spotlight as never before. With present-day happenings being as they are, this has led a number of people to turn on Vladimir Putin calling him out as a scapegoat. This article will look anew at the Russian leader, examining not only his manner of leadership, but also looking at some of those who call him out.
The Kremlin Chief
At the very top of the Russian political hierarchy, just as with any national leader, Vladimir Putin has a tremendous workload. This means that with the range of issues he has to address, there are a multitude of subordinates beneath him, he to a great degree leaving day-to-day business in their hands. It is obvious that certain key areas of policy require greater input from the Kremlin than others, but the president is merely at the head of a government that administers its rule through both domestic and international policy.
Skilled subordinates are crucial to a successful administration, the head of state being able to leave matters in their care. It is they who in all reality have their hands on the helm and unless major deficiencies become apparent, they are largely left alone to ensure that the country runs as it should.
It is only when things go awry that presidential intervention usually occurs. This was precisely the case with the Military Operation in the Ukraine, an untenable situation in Kherson giving rise to a change in the way the operation needed to be managed. Rather than there having been just one overall commander assigned to oversee the conflict, it had been headed by a number of senior officers who had neither cooperated nor evaluated the situation correctly. This eventually led to both the appointment of General Surovikin and the subsequent regrouping from Kherson.
With not only the appointment of Surovikin but also the restructuring of the overall command structure regarding the operation in the Ukraine from Moscow, the Kremlin has now got one body overseeing operations, confusion and a lack of coordination now a thing of the past. With Surovikin’s track record as well as his dynamism, his few short weeks in the job have seen him make crucial decisions as well as attempting to overcome the shortcomings that the previous eight months present him with. But how does that reflect on the president?
Whilst Vladimir Putin may be Russia’s ruler, he also has to manage his country’s stance on the world stage. In doing so, he has to balance Russian politics against those of other nations, both friendly and otherwise. A decision which may favor Moscow may not be so well received in other capitals, therefore adjustments may have to be made in order that policy be accepted outside of the Russian Federation.
This is where Putin comes into his own. Not only has he proven on innumerable occasions to have diplomacy par excellence, he has earned respect across the globe for it. Rather than just dancing to his (or someone else’s) tune, he is extremely careful not to dance on the toes of others. This has meant that in contrast to the Western steamroller approach, it is possible to have relations with other states that do not just benefit one party.
A Ruler of his Age
The title may point to Putin’s ability to keep Russian politics abreast of global events, yet there is another aspect to a statement such as this. Putin was 47 years of age when he landed the top job, yet until recently, he was younger than many of the premiers in the West. Moreover, his principal opponent in the White House hits eighty later this month, his lack of dynamism legendary before he even stepped into the Oval Office. This means that after more than twenty years at the top, Putin is still a full ten years younger than his American counterpart.
His time as president would not have been nearly as successful as it has been were it not for the fact that he chose a team of diplomats to represent him a number of years ago and has stuck with them ever since. Faces such as those of Shoigu, Lavrov and Zakharova are not only part of Putin’s government, but they have come to typify it. Recent decades have seen the corridors of Western power as little more than a revolving door; rather than fresh faces who appeal to current policy, Putin carefully opted for candidates who had excellent credentials, a track record and could offer his administration what it needed.
Criticizing the Commander
When a leader has been in office for more than twenty years, it is only natural that there will have been a number of occasions when decisions should have differed, yet knowing what he knows in both diplomacy as well as fact, it is easy to criticize without having the full picture. Moreover with the general public on many occasions not knowing what they know (or even don’t), it is sometimes difficult not to sling mud from the morass of hearsay and hoaxes.
Knowing the Unknown
With cyberspace being what it is, many armchair warriors and diplomats have had much to say, both then and now. With the world at our fingertips, entire armies of wannabe leaders leap onto any unconfirmed report or rumor, attacking anyone who goes against their chosen ideals. Putin being the Russian leader means that it is he above all others that takes the first of the flak. There is however one fact that few appear to realize; most if not nearly all of us out there just don’t have all the facts.
Nobody is perfect, yet compare Putin to any other Western leader over recent years and you will see that his governance of the Kremlin has acquitted itself very well indeed.
Prospects for Putin
With it being uncertain whether he will again stand for office in 2024, it would be unwise to speculate too far into the future. At seventy years of age, more than twenty of which have been in the hot seat, he will undoubtedly want to put his feet up sooner or later. With the current operation in the Ukraine ongoing as well as the West behaving towards Russia as it is, one doubts that he will stand down before the next elections are due. For as long as he has faith in the course he is following and his subordinates as well as his subjects have faith in him, there is simply no reason for him to go. Where his career may head in two year’s time is a very complicated matter, this being the theme for another article in the future.
He was when he took office a largely gray candidate, yet eight years later, the Russian constitution of the day dictated he could not stand for a third term in office. During the next four years under the presidency of Dmitri Medvedev, although only Prime Minister, he was the epitome of a gray cardinal, his hands off the helm, yet still absolutely in control.
As involved a leader as he is, it is simply not possible to follow all matters of state in the minutest of detail, the recent matter of affairs in Kherson being an excellent case in point. Had Putin appointed Surovikin or another general to manage the military operation in February, it may well be that either Kherson would not have at this time been part of Moscow’s plans or that different tactics would have meant that the regrouping was not necessary.
Even the greatest of leaders make mistakes, yet the fact that fault was recognized as well remedied in such an expeditious fashion marks Putin apart from other contemporaries. The Kremlin will most certainly have a roadmap regarding operations in the Ukraine, yet once it was realized that a wrong turning had been made, rather than continuing to run down a road to nowhere, experience and empathy caused a change in course.
After being at the zenith of Russian politics for over two decades, Vladimir Putin has not only seen pretty much everything, but pretty much everyone has had something to say about him. His tenure in the Kremlin has not been without error, but in the face of new and dangerous world, there are few if any today who have proved to be even remotely as good as he. Uninformed critics may pour scorn upon certain decisions, yet until they find someone better, he’s the best man for the job…