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Mr. Putin

Operative in the Kremlin

By Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy

Please note: This page refers to the original edition of Mr. Putin, published in 2013. For the new and expanded edition, click here



Who is Vladimir Putin? In Mr. Putin, Russia experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, is in fact a man of many and complex identities. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe six that are most essential: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer. Understanding Putin’s multiple dimensions is crucial for policymakers trying to decide how best to deal with Russia.

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Chapter One
Who is Mr. Putin?

“… some observers say that Vladimir Putin has no face, no substance, no soul. He is a “man from nowhere,” who can appear to be anybody to anyone. Indeed, as president and prime minister, Mr. Putin has turned himself into the ultimate political performance artist. Over the last several years, his public relations team has pushed his image in multiple directions, pitching him as everything from big game hunter and conservationist to scuba diver to biker—even nightclub crooner.”… read more.


Hill and Gaddy trace the identities back to formative experiences in Putin’s past, including his early life in Soviet Leningrad, his KGB training and responsibilities, his years as deputy mayor in the crime and corruptionridden city of St. Petersburg, his first role in Moscow as the “operative” brought in from the outside by liberal reformers in the Kremlin to help control Russia’s oligarchs, and his time at the helm of a resurgent Russian state. The authors then examine the nature of the political system Putin has built, explaining it as a logical result of these six identities.

Vladimir Putin has his own idealized view of himself as CEO of “Russia, Inc.” But rather than leading a transparent public corporation, he runs a closed boardroom, not answerable to its stakeholders. Now that his corporation seems to be in crisis, with political protests marking Mr. Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, will the CEO be held accountable for its failings?

“For more than a dozen years—the equivalent of three American presidential terms—Vladimir Putin has presided over the largest nation on the planet, the second most powerful nuclear arsenal, and massive natural resources. Yet there is still debate about who he really is. Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy have gone a long way in answering that question, starting with the title, which makes a crucial point: even though ‘Mr. Putin’ was, in his upbringing and early career, a prototype of the Soviet man, he’s no longer ‘Comrade Putin.’ His aim is not the restoration of communism. He has made a deal with the capitalists who have thrived in Russia over the past two decades: they support him in the exercise of his political power, and he supports them in amassing their fortunes.”—from the foreword by Strobe Talbott

Praise for the book:

“Of the many biographies of Vladimir Putin that have appeared in recent years, this one is the most useful, particularly to foreign-policy makers…”
—Robert Legvold in Foreign Affairs

“As experienced students of modern Russia, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy are exceptionally well qualified to explain the experiences and influences which shaped the mind of Vladimir Putin, the President who came from nowhere to assert control of a vast and complex country. Theirs is a tough analysis. Not everyone will agree with every aspect. But, if you want to begin to understand Russia today, read this book.”
—Sir John Scarlett, former Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

“For anyone wishing to understand Russia’s evolution since the breakup of the Soviet Union and its trajectory since then, the book you hold in your hand is an essential guide. Essential because to a very large degree the country’s most recent history is a reflection of the influence of one man, Vladimir Putin. By skillfully dissecting his various ‘identities,’ showing how these have been reflected in Russian policies and how they may be inadequate to emerging challenges, Hill and Gaddy illuminate not only the recent past but offer a tantalizing glimpse of what the future may hold.”
—John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of U.S. Central Intelligence

“A meticulous psychological portrait of Vladimir Putin and of the highly personalized state he has molded. How Vladimir Putin sees himself is key to how his system works, but, after twelve years of Putin Power, the nation and the people he leads have changed while Putin himself has not. Can Putin reinvent himself? Hill and Gaddy say Russia’s new urban middle class wants more than a ‘political performance artist.”
—Jill Dougherty, former Moscow Bureau Chief, CNN

“In this well-written and genuinely entertaining volume, Hill and Gaddy take us behind the theatrics and the rumors to give us a clear and intriguing view of the man himself. They have looked into Putin’s eyes and seen . . . a multiplicity of identities, all of which made him what he is today, and all of which tell us something about the Russia he continues to rule. This book is mandatory reading for the president and his advisers.”
—Robert Kagan, author of The World America Made

Read about Mr. Putin at The Economist »

On February 6, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings hosted the launch of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin by Brookings Senior Fellows Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy. * A Brookings FOCUS book

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