Putin’s Crisis of Authoritarianism – WSJ

It may come as a surprise that Ukrainians fought so well, but it wasn’t surprising that they would fight given what it’s really like to live under Vladimir Putin’s regime. Not that the Russian army is underperforming either: Mr. Putin’s thoughts on the Russian state’s religiously transcendent purpose of late always sit oddly in a regime that exists to pillage the state, as any conscript can see.

Even those Russians who support the war know the truth about their leaders: they are thieves.

There is a much simpler explanation for Mr Putin’s development over 22 years than many reports you’ve read, which emphasize ideology, frustration with the West and even a degree of mysticism. Go back and it’s clear that his early liberal sentiments evaporated as he realized his presidency needed to become permanent so he could avoid responsibility for the crimes his ascension caused.

Mr. Putin is notoriously a fan of the Godfather films, but a Guy Ritchie film strikes me as a better metaphor for his regime — you know, in which fast-talking London crime bosses colorfully discuss their regime’s stupidities and stupidities say fellow gangsters. On Tuesday, Russia continued its shaky retreat from Mr Putin’s original, colossally misinformed war aims in Ukraine that have only led to disaster. As Ray Winstone might say, what a jerk.

If the Russian leader was as unassailable at home as many believe, why does he seem to organize his life on the principle that he is expendable to almost everyone around him? His polished coup security suggests he knows not everyone admires his skills or public support. Mr. Putin is no Hitler or Mussolini, who never created a mass political movement or an immortal cadre of loyalists. If Mr. Putin were dethroned tomorrow, most Russians would view the matter with the same stoic passivity as the weather.

It follows that his decision making may also involve more uncertainty about what his peers will tolerate than we in the West assume.

Case in point: he may have leased the loyalty of the Russian general staff by showering them with hundreds of billions over the past decade, much of which went to mansions and foreign accounts. But he still had to continue his Ukraine adventure on the basis that it would be a piece of cake, over in three days, a fee-free victory that would only elicit swooned tut-tutting from the west.

If he had only offered his generals sweat, tears, blood and sacrifices, they would likely have coughed their sleeves and quickly left the room to adjust their portfolios in light of the discovery that Mr. Putin had lost the conspiracy.

Or take his apparent fear of personal contact and his legendary distrust of wireless communication. Both likely contribute to his propensity for misinformation and misjudgment. These facts can also mean — snap, snap — his authority is vulnerable to something as simple as cutting off his landlines. The Kremlin’s desperate backslide in Ukraine in recent days shows why Joe Biden’s ad-lib in Poland might have been a blip, but it was an inspired blip. And the walkback was inspired, too – leaving Mr. Putin’s associates with nothing certain except that he can never again serve as a useful interlocutor for the world’s indispensable superpower.

My only disappointment was that China didn’t come forward to say, “No, Mr. Putin must remain in power,” to emphasize how thoroughly the Russian leader has reduced himself through his own mistakes to a rag doll to be fought over is by nations that really matter.

There is a lesson in the relative flaws of free and unfree societies. The West’s managerial and democratic elite, of which Mr. Biden is an incomparable example, may be useless and short-sighted, and yet their societies are growing stronger and not making colossal mistakes (e.g. famines that kill tens of millions). ). ). We might even someday conclude on the relative merits of the US and Chinese approaches to the Covid pandemic.

Recall that the US also fought wars that were considered failures. But here’s the point: they were affordable failures. In fact, our wars have been able to drag on inconclusively because they were so far below the threshold of what the US could sustain economically and politically.

The Chinese are believed to be carefully reading the lessons of Mr Putin’s Ukraine debacle as they prepare to anoint Xi Jinping with presidential status for life, but they are missing the most important lesson. Western societies insist on changing their leaders every few years, and this makes them as strong and resilient as any authoritarian society. This indicates the true unpatriotism of either a Putin or an Xi. Their central task, as they see it, is to deny their societies the boon of a regular, orderly, and lawful hand-to-hand handover of power.

Journal Editor’s Report: Paul Gigot interviews General Jack Keane. Images: Reuters/AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/putin-crisis-of-authoritarianism-biden-warsaw-gaffe-regime-change-oligarchs-coup-stealing-russia-ukraine-war-11648588754 Putin’s Crisis of Authoritarianism – WSJ

Ethan Gach

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