Well-tuned “deep state” run by politicians accountable to their constituency is a recent invention. Before that, all great empires were run just the way Putin runs his bureaucracy: through a tightrope walk combining corruption on all levels and effective control securing that the lucrative positions mostly are occupied by people best suited for the job. Putin´s fascination with China stems partly from the brilliance with which the Chinese have managed that balance from the dawn of times.
In traditional societies, corruption is a tool of government. Corruption secures loyalty from Putin’s power base. It’s much easier to reign in people with greasy palms. In the hands of a competent ruler it gives an effective handle to control their actions in case they sometimes get the wrong kind of ideas.
Russia has never been run in a corruption-free way. For us, it´s inconceivable “to stay thirsty standing at the stream” (this is a popular Russian saying). Very few in the Russian elite know how to run a country without offending the key officers by
Above a certain level of state government, for many key officers the insistence from the immediate boss to stay clean sounds weird and even offensive. This would be very demotivating for them. Some can even interpret this as an attempt to challenge the system of tributary taxation, which may impact powerful people at the top level in Moscow.
As to the West, it’s a widespread opinion in Russia that they steal just like our rulers do. They are just better at putting a nice face on it.