The modus operandi of Putin’s Russia

In order to understand Russia’s aims towards Ukraine, we have to know two things.

First is to focus not on Vladimir Putin as an individual or on “What Putin Wants”, but on the modus operandi of Putin’s Russia, which is encapsulated in the term “political technology”.

Second is to recognise that Russia, therefore, has few real core beliefs. But one of these core beliefs is Putin’s repeated assertion that Ukraine is not a real country. We cannot always know Putin’s next step. But we should assume this is the general plan: Russia will go as far as it can to prove that assertion, but it will work within the paradigms of “political technology”.

Russia’s root problems include corruption and an explicit “great power” disdain for small states’ sovereignty. But what is unique about Russia is its political culture. Not “inevitable authoritarianism”, which is a myth spun by that culture – the Western myth that Russia is doomed to autocracy is the mirror-image of the Russian myth that the country can only be governed by a strong leader – but the manipulative culture of the many types of “political technology”.

For the full article, please visit the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.




Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Andrew Wilson is a senior policy fellow at ECFR. He is a permanent Reader in Ukrainian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He has published widely on the politics and culture of the European neighbourhood, particularly on Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and on the comparative politics of democratisation in the post-Soviet states, especially its corruption by “political technology”. His recent books include Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship (2011) and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2005). He is a frequent contributor to global media debates on Russia and Ukraine and his views and commentary have appeared in outlets such as the Independent on Sunday, Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and the South China Morning Post.