Fiona Hill, Director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, discussed the new edition of her book, ‘Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin’.
With Mr Putin, Hill looks beyond the swathes of misinformation that surround the Russian premier to reveal the real current situation in Russia.
By contextualising his personal background and experience, Hill showed how Putin was terrified when, in 2011-2012, he saw how close Russia was to having a Coloured Revolution. Over the next three years, Hill explained, Putin shifted to focus on foreign policy and relations with the West. Throughout these years Putin cynically manipulated history and deliberately cherry-picked particular events and types of information to sow fears among Russians of Western hostile plots. He portrayed the opposition as the “fifth column”, manipulated by foreign agents and as such had to be suppressed by force. In his mind, violence is a legitimate instrument of political control.
Hill highlighted the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine as a “tripwire”. It was at this point that Putin became exasperated with Yanukovych’s multi-vector approach towards Russia and the EU and it gave him the opportunity to annex Crimea, a Russian target previously seen as “the one that got away”.
Hill opened the discussion to the experts, journalists and diplomats around the table: they questioned whether Putin’s strategy in Ukraine had re-established Russia’s authority in the region. Participants also looked at the ways in which Putin’s disinformation campaigns could be countered and agreed that the only way to deal Putin’s political strategy is to maintain transparency and dedication to democratic values.
About the Speaker
Fiona Hill has written extensively about Russia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, regional conflicts and energy and strategic issues. From 2006 to 2009, she was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council in the United States. Now at the Brookings Institution, she is a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Programme. Her books include The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold (2003) and Energy Empire: Oil, Gas and Russia’s Revival (2004).
About the Transitions Forum
The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.