Assessing Putin: Public Statements, Private Concerns

May 10th, 2022 - by Michael Brenner & Tom Sykes / The Daily Beast

Assessing Putin: A Review of
the Russian Leader’s Public Statements

Michael Brenner

(May 8, 2022) — Friends & Colleagues:
Our political elites evidently have absorbed fully and deeply the proposition that “ignorance is bliss.”  The exhibits are too numerous to inventory. A singular current example with profound implication is the notion that Vladimir Putin is the quintessential brutal dictator — power mad, ruthless and with only a tenuous grip on reality. Indeed, it has become commonplace to equate him with Hitler — as done by such leading lights of America’s stellar elites such as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — as well as ‘opinion makers’ galore.

Even 203 noble Nobels lend their collective brains and celebrity credentials to an ‘open letter’ whose first sentence pairs Russia’s attack on Ukraine with Hitler’s assault on Poland in September 1939. These are only the most striking examples of the shortfalls in what passes for general education after 16 years of obligatory residence in American classrooms.

These words are not meant as a defense brief for Putin or Russia’s actions in Ukraine. That is a separate matter. The intent is simply to point out the high risks of making security policy on portentous matters in cultivated ignorance.

Sadly, the argument that those who make those decisions should know literally what they are talking about is widely deemed as radical — itself as great a menace as whatever dragons are hovering around us.

In Putin’s case, there is absolutely no excuse. He has presented his views on how Russia visualizes its place in the world, relations with the West, and the contours/rules of a desired international system more comprehensively, historically informed, and coherently than has any national leader I know of.

Shouted declarations [of] “we’re number ONE and always will be” are not his style. The point is that you may be troubled by his conclusions, question his sincerity, suspect hidden strains of thought and character, or denounce certain actions. However, doing so has no credibility unless one has engaged the man based on what is available — not on cartoon sketches.

So, too, should we recognize that this is not a one-man show; that it behooves us to consider the more complex reality that is Russian governance and politics.

For that reason, I have appended 4 of Putin’s lengthy public speeches for your attention. Also, a long interview/memoir by Jack Matlock — the United States’ ambassador to Moscow during the crucial years that saw and end to Cold War I.

If you are inclined to scan them, your knowledge of the subject already would exceed that of Pelosi, HRC [Hillary Clinton], Biden, Blinken and even Michael McFaul whose atrociously accented, fractured spoken Russian suggests that, were he to as much as fix his eye on the Putin manuscripts, he’d struggle through a few paragraphs before intoning that that there is an unmistakable echo of Mein Kempf.

And if you are acquainted with any of the 203 noble Nobels, you might consider passing on to them the speeches so as to remind them that dedication to intellectual integrity is meant to be universally applied.

Vladimir Putin is a formidable personality who leads a great country that has been experiencing an historic transformation. We will have to deal with him and with it, one way or another. Simply shouting to the skies: “genocidal killer” is dangerous, counter-productive — and, frankly, childish.

A Sampling of Vladimir Putin’s Collected Speeches

  • Putin’s Opening Speech At Davos World Economic Forum!
    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s keynote speech at the Davos World Economic Forum.
  • Address by President of the Russian Federation
    Vladimir Putin’s address to State Duma, Federation Council, heads of Russian regions and civil society representatives in the Kremlin.

• Russian President Putin’s Speech At The World Economic Forum

• The Ambassadorial Series: Deans of US-Russia Diplomacy Transcript of the Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Interview, National Security Archive

Michael Brenner is Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh; a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, contributor to research and consulting projects on Euro-American security and economic issues. He teaches in the fields of American foreign policy, Euro-American relations, and the European Union. He is author of numerous books including Nuclear Power and Non-Proliferation and Toward a More Independent Europe.

Putin’s Circle Fear His Madness Is Real
And He Could Use Nuclear Weapons

Tom Sykes / The Daily Beast

(May 9, 2022) — An oligarch close to Vladimir Putin has cautioned friends that the Russian president’s “psychiatric health is bad” and the possibility he could use nuclear weapons is “very real,” and that “stories about him going bonkers are not a joke,” a top journalist with Bellingcat reports.

“People who personally know [this oligarch] and other [insiders] have told me that big business closely affiliated to power are sitting as quiet as mice because the emperor’s madness is real, and the nuclear strike’s threat is very real, too,” Christo Grozev, who worked to identify the Salisbury poisoning suspects, told Ukraine-24 TV.

Grozev identified the oligarch as a household name in Russia who has known Putin for several decades. “I have no exact data about his health condition, but… people who are close to him, including oligarchs [believe he has cancer],” Grozev said. “People next to him believe he has such a disease. It has become a factor in Russian inner politics…. People do not believe Putin any more, do not believe he can be their guarantor. This is [the feeling] throughout the elites.”

However, former UK Ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton told Sky News that Putin had put in a “coherent” and “very professional performance” at Victory Day in Moscow today, telling Sky News: “It is rather encouraging that it leaves me with the feeling that we are dealing with a rational individual there with whom hopefully, in time, it will be possible to do a sensible deal to bring this whole mess to an end.”

“Oligarch Says Stories of Putin Going Bonkers Are No Joke: The Nuclear Threat Is Real,” Will Stewart / The Daily Mail, May 9, 2022.

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