President Putin is a procrastinator, trusts his intuition more than expert advice and never touches dirty money, according to people who personally know him
Franz Sedelmayer, a German who had a business in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s and had numerous contacts with President Putin both in Russia and Germany, mentioned three things that rarely have been written about.
Putin is a procrastinator. True to his habit of painstaking preparation, he long keeps the most important things on the back burner. He seemingly waits for the moment of lucidity that comes from the sheer amount of accumulated information. Only then he makes decisions, often based on an emotional response that makes it look like a snap judgment.
Trusts his intuition
Putin trusts his own experience and gut feeling much more than all his experts and tomes of research. When he needs to handle complicated matters, he seems to see the role of experts in throwing challenges at his preconception, which he often avoids to share with others. In the end, he rarely accepts what others bring to the table. This is why he hates long, complicated briefings and policy papers. Also, this is why he likes to surround himself with people who can provide several different approaches to the same issue, or even better compete with each other.
Doesn’t touch dirty money
Putin, during his work in St. Petersburg for the liberal mayor of Sobchak, was known to never take bribes. What he did was cover bribe-takers who handled the contributory part of the deals he supervised.
In the picture below (photo of TASS), Vladimir Putin is watching Sobchak’s back in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. Putin’s claim to fame among the clan of President Yeltsin as an unfailing sidekick and trusty workhorse—which ultimately secured him the top job in the Kremlin—was to protect the fortune that Sobchak was stashing away in Paris, and later exfiltrate him out of Russia when his enemies were about to get the man.
Corruption is a crucial lubricant in countries with a dysfunctional bureaucracy and unaccountable governments. Putin is better off making it to serve him than fighting it.
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.
Corruption is a powerful tool of government in Russia. There’s close to no history of corruption-free rule in the country. President Putin makes sure to use it efficiently.
Common sense suggests that corruption is bad for rulers because it erodes the loyalty of their servants. If this is true, why are Russian rulers generally, and President Putin in particular, so cavalier about corruption?
To start with, corruption is a crucial lubricant in countries with dysfunctional bureaucracy. Well-tuned “deep state” run by politicians accountable to their constituency is a relatively recent invention. Before that, all great empires were run just the way Putin runs his bureaucracy. He walks a tightrope combining corruption at all levels with effective control where most lucrative positions are mostly occupied by people best suited for the job. Putin’s fascination with China stems from the brilliance with which the Chinese have been managing this since the dawn of time.
Corruption secures loyalty among Putin’s power base. It’s so much easier to reign in people with greasy palms. You get a lot of controls on the subjects if and when they get the wrong idea.
Russia has never been run in a corruption-free way. According to an old Russian saying, it’s inconceivable when people “stay thirsty standing at the stream”. We think that Westerners steal just like we do. They are just better at putting a nice face on it. Among the Russian elite to insist that their friends, associates and key assistants stay clean is kind of weird.
“What have I done to you that you keep me thirsty standing at the stream?” This is a question too awkward to ask, and even more awkward to answer. However, it’s bound to hang in the air if you call some of your employees to the carpet to discuss irregularities. Therefore, it’s safer to go the way of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Only when corruption starts posing operational problems, it’s time for plain talk. Even then, it’s often packaged in terms of work efficiency and personal loyalty.
Corruption is a powerful tool of government in Russia. President Putin makes sure to use it efficiently.