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I never meet the man.  To know a person you have to live with them.

I have however mentioned him in previous posts ( Our Mr Putin is he good or bad and Thanks to Putin NATO no Longer has to justify its existence.) so I got to thinking what do I know about the man.

For what its worth here is a short picture of the Man.

Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in Leningrad, two brothers Oleg and Viktor, (neither of whom survived childhood.)  Mother, Maria Shelomova, (died of cancer 1998) Father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin,(died of cancer 1999.) Wife Lyudmila, two daughters Maria, 28, and Yekaterina, 27. Divorced after 30 years. He turned 62 this year and there is speculation that he might be ‘latently gay. Emerging from an environment of fistfights and drunken thugs, Putin gained an explosive temper.

Vera Putina, 82, in rural Georgia has claimed he is the child she gave away at the age of ten.

Elected president of the Russian Federation in 2000 as the hand-picked successor of Boris Yeltsin. Putin said that the authorities must draw their support solely from the Russian people, and if this support is absent, the authorities have no place in Power.

A member of the KGB beginning in the mid-1970’s, Putin spent years working primarily in East Germany, then left the service in 1991 and became active in the politics of St. Petersburg (Leningrad).

He was brought to Moscow by Yeltsin in 1996 and served as an administrator in the Kremlin and an official for the security organizations which replaced the KGB.

He was officially elected to the office in 2000 and re-elected in 2004 in a landslide vote. He stepped down in 2008 (as required by term limits) and was replaced by his own hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev installed Putin as prime minister, a move which left Putin, as the country’s dominant politician, with a firm grip on power. He is not shy about wielding his power publicly or privately.

In 2012, Putin was again elected President, but this time accompanied by wide-spread protests of election fraud.

Within a few brief years, he has dismantled the country’s media, wrested control and wealth from the country’s burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave.

During his latest administration, the Russian government has become increasingly repressive by virtually eliminating dissent, from the arrest of members of the feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot to the dissolution and intimidation of news agencies and journalists who are critical of the government, as well as instituting policies against the LGBT community.

Who is he really? Does he respects anything resembling a Western understanding of free expression in his country.

He is clearly not anti-democratic. However, he has shown himself to be indifferent toward democratic institutions or a democratic ethos to the extent that he believes that they will hinder his implementation of his vision of a more dynamic and modern Russian economy.

His time with the KGB is cloaked in mystery. A man without a history, an unexplained political figure. Accused of using poison as a political tool, with no prejudice against gay people provided they obey Russia’s ‘oppressive’ anti-gay laws. He remains an endless source of fascination. His secretive past lends itself to the interests of conspiracy theorists, critics and cloak-and-dagger fans.

Often seen in contradicting capacities that fascinate us, such as photos that show him kissing the belly of a little boy and others in which he presents Russian soldiers with hunting knives. He also has a habit of saying things that are considered extremely controversial.

A mass of contradictions: On the one hand he is portrayed as cautious, thoughtful family man, while on the other he’s a stern ruler whose harshest critics have a tendency to wind up dead. Yet, he is favored by hard-line Soviets and free-market reformists alike.

Named by Forbes Magazine as the most powerful man in the world he has essentially cut a deal with the Russian public: You stay out of politics, I’ll make sure the economy grows and that wealth trickles down.

He is explicitly aware of the reasons for economic failure under the different leaderships of Nikita Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and is consciously seeking an alternative policy. (Most probably, Putin is using the economic chaos of the 1990s as a negative model when making economic decisions.)

 

He holds a sixth-degree black belt in judo renowned for his sweeping leg throw,called a haraigoshi and is the coauthored the book Judo: History, Theory, Practice. 

He earned the degree based on a dissertation entitled, The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations, but some uncertainty exists about precisely when he wrote it and if he wrote it at all.

In 1997, Putin technically earned a doctorate in economics from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute; however, his thesis was targeted for a “candidate of sciences” degree, which is widely considered to be a full academic class lower than a doctorate. 

His mother was devoutly Russian Orthodox, while his father was atheist and a member of the Communist Party. Vladimir’s position was unknown until the mid-1990s, when a fire erupted at his dacha (a summer retreat) and he nearly lost his life. As a direct result of this near-death experience he converted, and today he is an active and practicing member of the Russian Orthodox Church — the very organization that was once largely banned in his country.

Putin’s paternal grandfather worked as a chef at one of Stalin’s many dachas. Additionally, Putin recalls his grandfather relating tales of serving meals to both Lenin and Rasputin but his family associated with Stalin, Lenin and Rasputin is only slight.

As the leader of the largest country by land mass on the planet — and one that is actively fighting a conflict in breakaway Chechnya (The Second Chechen War was launched by the Russian Federation, starting 26 August 1999)  The exact death toll from this conflict is unknown. Unofficial estimates range from 25,000 to 50,000 dead or missing, mostly civilians in Chechnya. Russian casualties are over 5,200.

Chechnya is all but silenced following the 11 September attacks on the US. A controversial referendum in March 2003 approved a new constitution, giving Chechnya more autonomy but stipulating that it remained firmly part of Russia.

He is now staging a proxy war in the Ukraine and inked a deal to build a more than $70 billion gas pipeline with China (the planet’s largest construction project) our choice simply seems prescient.

With the annexation of Crimea he is surely, drifting away from core Western values concerning the importance of democratic principles, an open and free civil society, an independent media and a competitive market economy with Russia looking more and more like an energy-rich, nuclear-tipped rogue.

We would be fools to measure Russia by textbook edicts or homespun hopes that its form of democracy should eventually resemble that of the United States and/or other Western countries. Russia has started to convincingly recover from the chaos of the post-Soviet collapse and reforming Russia’s still very Soviet military establishment and mindset has always been an important policy agenda of Putin’s presidency.

In doing so he is NATO Favorite disciple, in so far that Nato had to reinvent itself after the cold.

Western sanctions seem to have encouraged Russians to “rally ’round the flag.”  The early indications are that there are backfiring spectacularly.

According to the Levada Center, Russia’s leading independent polling agency, Russians have never been more supportive of Putin. His approval rating in October 2014 was a preposterous 88%, with a mere 11% voicing disapproval.

What’s noteworthy isn’t just the high overall level, but the fact that it has been relentlessly ticking higher and increasing steadily ever since the situation in Ukraine blew up in late February and early March.

So far the West’s response to the Ukraine crisis has measurably strengthened Vladimir Putin’s domestic support. Since the policy’s goal was precisely the opposite, I’d humbly suggest that should cause us to re-think our approach. Regardless of your opinion, though, any attempt to analyze what the West should do next needs to take into account the fact that Vladimir Putin is now politically stronger than he has ever been before.

The thorny question of whether Putin’s vision for Russia is good for the country’s future and that of the rest of the world is to be answered.

Putin created his own narrative that vilified NATO expansion as an unjust Western strategy of entrapment. Much of the real story has yet to be written, and there is still cause to hope it will end differently.

From Putin’s perspective, NATO expansion was a broken promise, a violation of a post-Cold War covenant between Russia and the West.

NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe crystallized the narrative in Putin’s mind that the West was reinvigorating its policy of containment.

As long as the West keeps punching, Putin, the hotheaded and thin-skinned judo martial artist, will punch back. There are peaceful alternatives on the horizon. What is needed is warming not a chilling.

.

And Finally he has his own Web site.

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