Vladimir Putin: Time Magazine’s #1 most influential person in 2015, has shown a remarkable talent throughout his early life and political career for ‘getting the job done’. His authoritatively democratic regime has carried out policies that provides a new lease of life to traditional Russian values (such as Russian Orthodox Christianity) which has seen his popularity continue to soar to 82% over the past 16 years.
After graduating with a degree in Law from St Petersburg State University in 1975, Putin joined the KGB in the German Democratic Republic (DDR), where he rapidly climbed to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. This, combined with a passion for martial arts from a young age, is likely to have moulded him into the hardened militaristic leader that we see on the global stage today, portraying the Russian leadership as morally and militarily superior to the West.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin began his political career as an advisor to his former university tutor and then Mayor of St Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, where he served as Head of the Committee for External Relations specialising in international relations and trade investments. However, following the mayor’s failed election attempt in 1996, Putin was appointed as President Yeltsin’s Deputy Chief of Staff. By 1999, he had impressed Yeltsin to the extent that he was made one of Russia’s three Deputy Prime Ministers with responsibility for the government of the Russian Federation. His remarkably rapid climb from Mayor’s aide in 1996 to Prime Minister by 1999 gives a clear psychological insight into the determination and ambition of Putin that has attracted vast admiration from the Russian people indicated by his cult-like following of young, committed supporters and range of products and commercial advertising using Putin’s image as a selling point.
Mr Putin’s first term as President from 2000 until 2008 was characterised by his tireless effort to turn the Russian economy around. Increasing GDP per capita from US$1,771 in 2000, to US$11,699 by 2008 showed the Putin administration to be economically responsible, but this economic prosperity was largely resource dependent and thus was reliant upon stable global commodity prices. After taking a backseat from the Presidency between 2008 and 2012, Putin once again took office, this time his administration prioritised security and defence policy. Putin’s wars have brought about a renewed sense of Russian superiority and a renewed opposition to US hegemony (but not necessarily a call for Russian hegemony). Actions in Syria and the Ukraine have surprised NATO commanders due to the rapid expansion and technological advancement of Russian forces over recent years and their successes against both Assad’s enemies (including Daesh and the Kurds) and Ukrainian forces during the annexation of Crimea. The conclusion of the Syrian civil war along with the future of President Bashar Al-Assad (whatever it may be) and the demise of Daesh will inevitably be determined by Putin, making him one of, if not, the most significant figures in International Relations.
Putin sees himself as the personification of the Russian Federation: all-powerful, firm, virtuous, and a permanent leading influence in global affairs. Although he shows little desire for returning Russia to its former Soviet-self, he represents a continuing opposition to the status quo of international affairs which is currently shaped by a weakening US hegemon. The West’s failure to address conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine means that we are likely to see more nations look towards Moscow and Putin for leadership and direction instead of Washington and Brussels. Putin is evidently ambitious, and this combined with an upcoming General Election in 2018, means that he is set to remain firmly in the throne of the Kremlin for quite some time to come.