Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, 59, is set to win Russia’s presidential election on Saturday, March 4, says British author Angus Roxburgh -- whose new book “The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia” – who paints Putin as someone who is "very strange" and who learned early in his life how to deal with bullies. For instance, Roxburgh told National Public Radio (NPR) Feb. 28 that his new biography about Putin shows his tricky side when Putin “made President George W. Bush believe that he was a man he could trust and could do business with.” Also, when Putin was asked what his former job in the KGB was, Roxburgh told NPR that Putin said: “My job is to mingle with people;” while Roxburgh added how “a part of that, I think, is his ability to make people feel very comfortable.”
Putin seems to hang on to power
Still, there are plenty of people in Russia today, state news reports, who do not want Putin to have another term as their president.
For example, Putin is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of “United Russia,” and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. Putin has already served two terms as “President of Russia,” and then Putin was nominated by his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, to be Russia’s prime minister; and now Putin hopes to win his third, non-consecutive term in the 2012 presidential election if he wins on Saturday and replaces Medvedev.
One of the things that Roxburgh’s new book -- “The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia” – reveals is how determined the young Putin was even as a teenager to lift himself up and become something great. For instance, Putin comes from a working class background; with his mother a factory worker and his father a “conscript” in the Soviet Navy.
Also, in Putin’s autobiography, “Ot Pervogo Litsa” (“In the First Person”) – which is mostly based on Putin’s interviews, he speaks of “humble beginnings,” and being “bulled as a teen” and learning to be strong and become “The Strongman” of Russia, as British author Angus Roxburgh paints the “very strange” leader in his new book.
In turn, the view on those who have been bullied, is that "those who hurt, hurt."
Putin not a black and white leader
Roxburgh told NPR, during a Feb. 26 interview, that “it’s very easy to paint Putin in black-and-white terms, but actually, he’s a more complex character.”
For instance, the British author explained that when Putin first came to power that “he wanted to bring Russia in from the cold. He even spoke about joining NATO, and for him it was a symbol that Russia could become part of the West again.”
However, Roxburgh said Putin “was constantly rebuffed by the West.” In turn, the author explained to NPR that “from our point of view there was no malicious intent in that. But from his point of view (as someone who was bullied as a teen), it looked as if Russia was being sort of encircled by the West’s military alliance.”
As for Putin being re-elected on Saturday, Roxburgh said it seems likely because there’s no freedom of the press in Russia – with Putin controlling the media as prime minister – and that Putin still seems all powerful.
Still, Roxburgh noted that Putin’s heavy hand “has given rise to a protest movement in Russia which everybody says has really changed things. And even if Putin wins, he has got to take account of this movement somehow.”
Former Soviet states challenged
One of qualities Russia people do like about Putin, adds Roxburgh, is his allegiance to the old Soviet ways of doing business – that included “protecting” its satellite states such as Armenia.
In turn, Armenia has faced many challenges since becoming a sovereign state back in 1991. For instance, neighboring Turkey continues to be “aggressive” towards Armenia, state political science experts when point to recent provocative acts that are designed to undermine the sovereignty of the country.
At the same time, Armenia continues to be an ally of Russia even after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. Among the two countries agreements, includes Putin’s determination, state experts, to “keep collaborating” with those countries that were once fell under Russian rule.
Roxburgh’s new book about Putin explains, for example, how the Russia feels his country should stay active in “running” large parts of the former empire.
Putin’s body doubles add his “strange” methods
One of the strangest stories of 2011 unfolded in December when Putin’s body double was revealed. Putin even has a look-alike in China and “many others in Russia” that stand-in for this former KGB “Cold War” spy.
Also, the recent revelation that Putin has “body doubles” is yet another concern that’s rising from promoters of a “democratic Russia in the Western mode,” as Putin puts the clamps down on more freedoms in Russia with an increase in “Big Brother” state surveillance.
At the same time, BBC News broke the story – as more of a joke in light of the crackdowns in Russia by Putin to win another shot at being president – when reporting that this former KBG agent is believed to have numerous body doubles that appear in public; while Putin is safe and sound back at the Kremlin.
For instance, both wantchinatimes.com and hindustantimes.com ran photos of Putin and a farmer from central China, named Luo Yuanping, on the front pages of leading newspapers in China and India recently exclaiming that this Chinese farmer bears “a striking resemblance to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.”
In fact, Luo Yuanping “has become a minor celebrity in both China and Russia after a visiting journalist discovered his likeness to Putin. Luo says that whenever he Fellow villagers in Anhui province have begun to call the 48-year-old Luo ‘Brother Putin.’ He is reportedly delighted about the attention he has received and the village is also glad to have a local celebrity. Luo, who is single, also hopes the attention may help him find a wife. ‘I wish to have a wife and a family,’ he told a reporter for hindustantimes.com recently.
At the same time, other Putin body doubles have sprang up all over Russia, with a cloaked police officer in Russia using the Internet to both challenge Putin about “rampant corruption,” and to remind voters that the Putin they’re seeing in person or on TV may be one of Putin’s body doubles.
Russia still a major player in the world
According to a recent United Nations report, the economy of Russia is now the 11th largest economy in the world; thanks to the country undergoing significant changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union and moving from a centrally planned economy to more market-based and globally integrated economy.
However, economic reforms in the 1990s have privatized most industry and created vast wealth for a group of super billionaires that either support or distain Putin who likes to run the show as both the president and prime minister of the country.
Putin swore an oath to do the right thing
For instance, Russians have told BBC News and other world media that Putin swore an oath back on May 8. 2000 to ''respect and guard the human and civil rights'' of Russia.
Putin was appointed prime minister in 1999 “by the ailing and foundering president, Boris N. Yeltsin, became president of Russia in 2000. Arising from obscurity, Mr. Putin proceeded to consolidate control over almost every aspect of society and business and marginalize what opposition still existed. He remained president until 2008, when he handed the office to his chosen successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev,” stated a recent profile of Putin in the New York Times; while it also noted how on Nov. 27, 2011, two months after Putin revealed his intention to reclaim the Russian presidency, he accepted his party’s nomination.
Thus, it’s no surprise that Putin is viewed as a “tricky character,” with the likelihood that this former KBG agent has a body double or two is “highly possible,” say political science experts who’ve watched Putin’s ticks for decades.
Russian’s don’t like Putin’s mind games
There’s now a view that “far from hailing the extension of the Putin era, Russia appeared to be deeply annoyed. In December, Mr. Putin’s United Russia party suffered surprisingly steep losses in parliamentary elections, barely reaching a 50 percent majority,” reported The New York Times last week; while noting that “three opposition parties made big gains. United Russia appeared to have little choice but to forge a working relationship with at least one of the three, and Mr. Putin now faces an unexpectedly challenging three-month campaign for the presidency.”
The New York Times went on to report that “the elections had shaped up not just as a referendum on United Russia but also on Mr. Putin, and his plans to remain as Russia’s paramount political leader. The results amounted to a clear rebuke from voters weary of a leadership that has been in place for more than a decade.”
In turn, monitors in the West said the vote was marred by limited political competition, ballot box stuffing and the use of government resources for the party’s benefit, and the elections were followed by several days of street protests. Thus, it’s no surprise that Putin “hit back by accusing the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in particular, of instigating the demonstrations,” the New York Times reported.
Many Russians seem to hate Putin
At the same time, demonstrations in Russia are growing with tens of thousands of “mainly middle-class protesters in the streets of Moscow."
The New York Times also reported that these recent demonstrations have led to several “pro prominent figures — a billionaire industrialist and the recently ousted finance minister — to step forward to fill a void in the opposition leadership.”
For example, the owner of the New Jersey Nets – Mikhail D. Prokhorov – is now running against Putin for president; while former Russian finance minister, Aleksei L. Kudrin also coming out against Putin by stating that “he would form a new political party to push for liberal reforms.”
Putin compares self to Franklin Roosevelt
He’s a “hawk,” who prides himself in presenting a strong and powerful Russia with enough nukes to take out any enemy; still, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also views himself as a kindred spirit to President Franklin D. Roosevelt because FDR was “elected to four terms.”
Putin also confronted criticism over his decision to seek a return to the presidency next year, warning in a recent television interview show of a return to the volatility of previous decades should Russia swerve from its current course,” reported the New York Times back in October.
Meanwhile, there’s a growing movement in Russia dubbed “Putin must go” (Russian: «Путин должен уйти») on a website and a public campaign of the same name organized to boot out this super-powerful Russian who rules with the same iron fist as infamous Joseph Stalin; the man who turned the Soviet Union from a backward country into a world superpower at “unimaginable human cost of tens of millions of lives.”
Putin is a power-hungry dictator
“They say that things cannot get any worse,” said Putin while referring to his critics during a recent TV interview reported by the New York Times Oct. 18. “But I would be wary. It is enough to take two or three incorrect steps and all that came before could overcome us before we know it.”
Putin continued: “We lived through the collapse of the country. We lived through a very difficult period in the 1990s. Only in the 2000s did we begin to get to our feet. We are stabilizing the situation, and of course we need stable development ahead.”
These statements from Putin – which was shown on Russia’s three major government-connected and controlled television channels – reminded viewers how ruthless this Russian leader really is and, for the West, a wake-up call that Putin still has a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons with many still pointed at the U.S. and its allies.
“Since coming to power, Putin has eliminated most legitimate opposition, leaving Russia with a smattering of parties loyal to the Kremlin and little in the way of civil society. Few doubt that he will win elections next year (when replacing the puppet current president Dmitry Medvedev) though he took issue with critics who said Russians would have no choice in the matter,” reported the New York Times last October.
Putin thinks he’s the Russian version of FDR
When explaining his decision to seek the presidency again, “Putin admitted that he had not wanted the position when it was offered to him by Boris Yeltsin, in 1999, but would ‘take it to a logical conclusion.’ He likened himself to Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected to four terms,” stated the New York Times report.
“He ruled the country during the most difficult years of economic depression and the Second World War,” Putin said in a recent Russian TV interview. “He was elected four times because he was effective. The number of terms or years was not important.”
When asked about foreign policy and “re-claiming some of the former Soviet states,” Putin said “Russia would continue to protect its national interests,” reported the New York Times.
Also, the New York Times noted that “during Putin’s first term as president, relations with the West dropped to their lowest point since the Cold War.”
When one interviewer asked the powerful prime minister what he thought of a perception in the West that he is a foreign policy hawk, the New York Times reported Putin saying: “A hawk is a very nice bird.”
Putin smells blood in the water
One Russian official who spoke on the BBC recently about how Putin’s plan for a “Eurasian Union,” said the sly fox “smells blood in the water,” and wants a redo of the USSR at a time when the world won’t balk due to fierce economic woes at home.
While Putin says a new political union would have a "positive global effect,” those who know this sly fox point to the statement: “Trust, but verify,” per the signature phrase adopted and made famous by President Ronald Reagan when he faced the Russkies.
According to an exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Reagan frequently used the term “trust, but verify” when discussing U.S. and world relations with the then Soviet Union. In turn, Reagan rightly presented it as a translation of the Russian proverb: “doveryai, no proveryai.” It so happens, that Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin also frequently used the phrase.
Reagan told his counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev – during the historic signing of the INF Treaty – that Gorbachev complained and responded to Reagan with “you repeat that at every meeting.” To which Reagan answered “I like it!”
Putin wants the world his way
Putin lists “political advisor” and “KGB Agent” on his official Russian government biography that also notes his “love for hunting, shooting all types of weapons, judo, karate, riding horses” and other “manly activities.”
In turn, political science experts told the BBC News late last year that “Putin is ready to strike” in getting the world back his way.
Thus, Putin may do just that this Saturday when he’s set to win re-election for his third term as Russia’s president.
Image source of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as a teen when the Russian leader says he was bullied. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin