Vladimir Putin: Power, Greed, Obsession (2022) Movie Script

The Economist Intelligence
Unit has a thing
they do every year called
the democracy index,
which ranks countries
according to their democracy.
And it has four categories.
It has full democracy, flawed democracy,
hybrid regime, and authoritarian regime.
Ukraine is 85th and Russia is 124th.
And more to the point,
Russia is deemed an authoritarian regime.
So Russia is right down
out of 180-odd countries.
Russia is right down
in the bottom category
in terms of its commitment
or otherwise to democracy.
These number of rulers are
increasing, unfortunately.
I mean, the world is moving
in that populous authoritarian direction.
The ultimate goal of a
dictator is to gain power.
And then once you've got power,
the goal of the dictator
becomes to keep that power.
Most dictators start
off with good intentions.
And of course Putin, he has a vision
of restoring order in Russia
and improving the prosperity
after the really difficult
sort of economic situation in the 1990s.
Communism had failed long before.
And so Putin knows that,
Putin knows that there's no real appetite
to go back to communism.
What there is an appetite for
is imperialism, is greatness,
is pride, is self-respect and so on.
And that's what he's
trying to reestablish.
The great advantage of
democracy is that there's
a means whereby countries
can change peacefully,
change without a revolution.
But the problem is with dictatorships
that there's no kind of
internal mechanism for change.
There's no way in which the
country can change direction
without either a palace
coup or an assassination,
or of course, the dictator dying.
For a dictator like Putin,
what power means is having the ability
to do whatever you feel like,
like a kind of mediaeval
king or indeed in Russia,
of course, a tsar,
and press a button and things just happen.
No one argues against you.
You have millions of people
under your direct control,
and they just have to go along
with what you are saying.
So the hallmarks of your average dictator,
and all these Putin has
in spades, are narcissism.
You've got to love yourself
because you think you're
worthy of this power.
A ruthlessness, certainly ruthlessness.
You've also got to be very
insecure because let's face it,
the average person who
actually wants all this power
is probably missing something
in their psychological makeup.
A willingness to go down
this sort of personality
cult route, especially.
You saw it with Stalin,
you saw that with Hitler,
you see that with Putin,
and you certainly see that
with the three generations
of the Kim family in North Korea.
It's all about the person in charge,
the office and the
incumbent become as one.
You've also got to be brilliant
at managing the message.
That is a very smart way of
saying lying all the time.
You've also got to have a lot of people
who are loyal to you, who
have helped you on the way up,
and you've got to keep them loyal.
And also, with those same people,
you've also got to divide them.
This is what Putin does.
This is what Hitler did.
This is what Stalin did.
It is dictator textbook tactics.
Putin was one of those
frankly slightly strange kids,
be in no doubt about it.
He wasn't the kind of jolly, gregarious,
socially confident young man.
This was a young man, a young boy,
who actually knocks on the door
of his local KGB office in
St. Petersburg and says,
"Can I have a job please?"
And they say to Putin, "Off you go."
And Putin says, "Okay, well
what should I go and do?"
And they say, "Well, I don't
know. Go and study law."
So dutifully Putin pops around
St. Petersburg University
and gets himself a law degree.
In the Soviet Union at that time,
a law degree did not
mean that you would go
and become a solicitor or
barrister, as you would here.
I mean, law was fundamentally
an arm of the state,
a politicised arm of the state.
So law was a pretty good introduction
into being a KGB agent.
Then comes back to the KGB
and says, "Can I join you now?"
And they go, "Yeah. All right."
They were called the sword
and shield of the revolution.
They were warriors for and
defenders of the system,
and he took great pride in that.
So I think a combination
of KGB and Leningrad
has really shaped him.
But then he goes on to training school,
and it's always been his
ambition to work abroad
and especially work in the West.
This is why he said he wanted to become
a KGB agent in the first place.
He's inspired by this
film that the KGB had made
in the 1960s called "The
Sword And The Shield."
Kind of like the Soviet James Bond,
the kind of secret agents
who's placed in Nazi Germany,
pretends to be a Nazi officer
and is sending all the information
back to the Soviet Union
and defending the motherland as it were.
And so Putin says this is why he wants
to become a secret policeman,
because one person can
make so much difference
to the glory of the country, as it were.
Being secretive is
second nature to Putin,
especially as a spy.
You give away as little as you have to,
and even then reluctantly.
He was brought up very much
within the folds of the system.
His grandfather had been a
cook for both Lenin and Stalin.
We don't know very much about him,
but clearly his grandfather
was very much somebody
who was part of the establishment.
You would imagine that Lenin and Stalin
would've been fairly careful
about who was cooking their foods.
His father had worked for the NKVD,
which were for runners of
the KGB, the secret police.
They came after the checker,
and now the KGB and the FSB.
Different names, same bunch of guys.
During the Second World War,
what the Russians called
the Great Patriotic War,
he was part of the NKVD's
destruction battalions.
And they were basically
responsible for maintaining order,
among other things.
So they were just as savage
towards their own people
as they were towards the Nazis.
When we're trying to speculate
as to why young Vladimir
wants to go and become a secret policeman,
certainly his father's war time history
seems to be part of it.
But all this period probably taught him
that KGB's effectivity
is the ideal style system
for the Russian bureaucracy.
That's why when he put people in places,
he always looked for someone he knows
from the KGB background or from
the intelligence background
in the Russian system.
His three closest confidants right now,
they all date back to the '70s.
They all worked with him
as KGB agents in Leningrad,
so that dies hard with Putin.
He's very much a man of
his place and of his time.
They were unable to develop
computer technology and so on.
So the only way to get it was
by stealing from the West.
He sent agents abroad to
try and gather information
of technical computer
mainframes, microchips and so on.
This is the early days
of the computer age.
They couldn't buy it
because there were embargoes
and sanctions and so forth.
So it seems that one of Putin's roles
was to facilitate this.
He would be the one who
was developing links
with Western companies
who could be persuaded,
through financial incentives
or other kind of secret
service operations,
to pass on technology to the Eastern block
that wasn't supposed to be transferred.
And that's the slightly,
the thing about Putin,
he was good without being great.
And therefore you would never have thought
If you lined up a lot of
KGB agents in the late '80s
and said, "In 10 years time,
one of you guys be president of Russia,"
he would not have been
the one you'd have chosen.
Not in a million years.
You asked me about 1990
and '91, when I was there,
it was a hugely chaotic
period economically.
I remember there was nothing in the shops.
Most of the shops were
I was living in a Central
Moscow, from archives to my flat,
I was just walking around
sometimes two hours
just to see who is selling what,
just getting a few things from the street
because people were
selling one orange here,
a little bit of cheese there, some bread.
So it was so chaotic.
It was almost like a mediaeval period.
He resigns from the KGB during the coup
against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991.
Gorbachev off
was on holiday in Crimea,
and a bunch of hard liners
basically tried to arrest
what was the disintegration of the union.
They did it totally cack-handedly.
But actually there's no
evidence that he does resign
from the KGB at that time.
We certainly haven't got any documents,
like a letter of resignation
or anything like that.
And there's every reason
to suppose actually that he doesn't
and that he remains intimately
connected with the KGB.
After the collapse of communism
in the Soviet Union in 1991,
he gets a job with the new
democratically elected
mayor in St. Petersburg.
And really the speculation
is that the reason that
Sobchack gives him a job
is that he wants somebody
who has KGB connections
as his kind of tough guy,
as his guy who can
actually be the link person
with the security services
and the link person with organised crime.
He basically becomes his bag carrier.
But what he's doing is
he's forging connections
by people in industry, in politics,
all around St. Petersburg.
Putin is the indispensable grey man.
He's not making speeches.
He's not being a politician.
He's simply being a function.
He's being a bureaucrat.
But what Putin knows, and
what people often know,
is that the people at the nexus of power,
it's people at the meeting points of power
are the people who
actually gain the power,
because they're the people
who knows what different people want
and they can manage those relationships.
And suddenly Putin finds
himself at the heart of power
in St. Petersburg.
He finds himself enriching himself,
because everything is corrupt.
So, that is a key part
of the Putin narrative,
that relationship is Sobchack.
All those pictures of those guys,
he's always the one in
the corner of the back.
But he's always obviously
by the same token,
watching and absorbing information.
He is the grey man.
And yet, he was the one who succeeded
because obviously he was very smart
about where to position himself
and whose coattails to follow.
And Sobchack was a very good
guy to hitch your start to.
Russia in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin
was certainly a very chaotic environment.
Yeltsin and his government
have been trying
to create a market economy.
Rather than creating a market economy,
what they've done is that
they've transferred ownership
in the most important bits
of the Russian economy
to a small number of individuals
who've become mega rich.
In Russia, at that time,
there was no rule of law.
If you had a disagreement with someone,
you sorted it out with violence
You couldn't have a business dispute
and take it to the court.
There were no courts.
There was a tonne of money floating around
and the money was getting bigger,
especially because with
the economic reforms,
the exchange rates on
the international market,
the disparity was so huge.
You could buy a barrel of oil
for next to nothing in rubles
and sell it for a fortune in dollars.
They called it the Wild East.
Anything went.
They there's a word for
them called, dorkadents.
They were decadent dorks.
There were the kind of dorks who back home
would never have got anywhere,
but here they were driving
around in the limousines,
and beautiful women and
champagne and so on,
just because it was that time
and place where they could.
It was anarchy.
The memories of that time
really die hard for lots of Russians.
And actually, for a lot of Russians,
given them the choice
between authoritarianism
and the anarchy of the Yeltsin years,
they'll take authoritarianism.
They'll say, "We don't want that anymore."
Freedom in a pretty nebulous concept
when there's anarchy around.
A group of seven oligarchs club together
and basically bought the
election for Yeltsin,
and they funnelled hundreds
of millions of dollars
into his campaign.
I mean, way more than was allowed.
They bought the election and it worked.
The FSB is the successor to the KGB.
It's a very notorious
state intelligence agency,
and Putin ends up being nominated
and becoming head of the FSB.
This is an extraordinary leap
from what was effectively
a very sort of low grade
employee in Dresden in the '80s,
and then suddenly to be a head
of the successor organisation
is a huge coup for Putin.
And what's interesting in the 1990s,
is that Yeltsin says he's
committed to democracy
and to democratisation,
but he never really reforms
the security services.
They remain in pretty much
the same kind of organisation
that they were in the Soviet times.
A tool, which is there for the state
to use to do its dirty work.
There's two intelligent
services in Russia,
two main intelligence services.
The FSB, who are domestic intelligence,
and the SVR, who are foreign intelligence.
It's pretty much the
same as MI5 and MI6 here,
or as the FBI and the CIA in America.
So as head of the FSB, he
would've been responsible
for internal Russian espionage.
He was Russia's top internal spy.
So really, when Putin
becomes head of the FSB,
becomes head of this
organisation that's still able
to exercise, I wouldn't say total power,
but an enormous amount of
power within the country
without any kind of
accountability or scrutiny.
People who get that job know
where the bodies are buried.
It's a circle.
You get that job because
you know those things,
and having that job gives you
access to more of the same.
It's an enormously important
political base for him.
The FSB's headquarters
are the Lubyanka in Moscow.
And the Lubyanka is a big, brown building
in the centre of Moscow.
I've walked past it.
And perhaps it's sort of suggested this
because you know what it represents,
but there is definitely a
shadow as you walk past it.
People go into the Lubyanka historically,
and they never came out.
You keep tabs on people.
So it's that kind of attitude
that citizens are suspect.
There's an interesting story about how.
Putin first gets to be prime minister.
He's appointed prime
minister by Boris Yeltsin
at the end of the 1990s.
This is really important because Yeltsin
is looking for the right successor.
Yeltsin is very anxious
about leaving office
because if he leaves office,
he's very worried that people
will want to get revenge
for various things that happened.
What Yeltsin wants is
a peaceful retirement.
And in order to get a peaceful retirement,
he needs to hand over power
to somebody who he trusts.
And why does he end up settling on Putin?
Answer, because Putin manages to deal with
a corruption scandal that's
very greatly bothering Yeltsin,
and deal with it in an extremely
efficient and ruthless way.
He decides that he is
going to deal with this
in the most ruthless, typical KGB-style.
Film is released and shown
on the Russian evening news
of the prosecutor general,
who's investigating the Yeltsin family,
romping on a bed and in a
sauna with two prostitutes.
And so of course the prosecutor general
is humiliated and has to resign,
and the story goes away.
And so Yeltsin is said
to be extremely impressed
with how well Putin deals with that.
This is the kind of ruthlessness
that a leader of Russia needs.
And that's the point at which Yeltsin
makes Putin prime minister.
Now he's prime minister,
but no one's heard of him.
I think his poll rating at the time
is 2% in the opinion polls.
Yeltsin's is about three or 4%.
Yeltsin is universally hated by this time.
So how are they going to turn
Putin from 2% in the polls,
to a credible presidential candidate
who can beat the then
favourite for the presidency,
who's a real enemy of Yeltsin
who Yeltsin thinks will
be returning Russia
to the communist past?
And how do you do this?
Well, you fight a short victorious war.
But Russia isn't at war with anybody,
so there's a need to manufacture a war
in order to turn Putin
into a kind of war leader.
First of all, there's an explosion
in a Moscow shopping mall,
and then a truck bomb blows
up outside an army barracks
in the Southern Republic of Dagestan.
And then there are three
so-called apartment bombings
where apartment blocks are blown up
in the middle of the night.
Something like 300
Russian citizens, civilians,
were killed in those bombings.
And immediately the authorities
said they were Chechens.
Even before anyone came and
did investigation in the place.
They said, "Chechens did this.
Chechen terrorist did this."
And Putin's response was immediately
to send the army to Chechnya.
As of now, Putin's rating is zero.
He was never regarded in a
serious presidential contender.
And I don't think that Yeltsin's approval
will add much to that zero.
And Putin makes these speeches saying,
"I will wipe out the
terrorists wherever they are.
I will find them.
If they're in the outhouse,
I will rub them out in the outhouse."
He's using real kind of mafia slang.
He's gonna be the big dog
who can keep the country
safe from these terrorists
who are just slaughtering ordinary people.
So suddenly his poll
ratings start shooting up.
Now the interesting thing
about the apartment bombings
is that there's an awful lot of evidence
that these were not in fact carried out
by Chechen terrorists.
That in fact, the apartment bombings
were a false flag operation by the FSB.
For example, the expertise
to blow up buildings
in the very precise way that it was done.
The explosive, which was used to do them,
which was only available
to the Russian State.
There was a failed bombing
in the city of Ryazan.
The people who planted the
explosives were actually caught,
and turned out to be FSB agents.
So really one might say that this is
the kind of founding
crime of the Putin regime,
that actually Putin was
prepared from the start
to see hundreds of his own people blown up
in order to secure his political power.
In 1998, the ruble was devalued.
Come '99, when Putin
becomes prime minister
and then becomes president
on Millennium Eve,
this is a country that
has basically undergone
a rollercoaster for eight years.
Business disputes were
solved by executions
and people got shot in five-star hotels
in the middle of the day.
You've got to remember,
when the Soviet Union collapsed
at the beginning of the '90s,
Putin was an almost kind
of pensioned-off junior
nobody in the KGB who had had
a very unspectacular career.
And yet by the beginning of
the '90s through to 2000,
Putin then takes control of Russia.
So ultimately it takes less than a decade
for this relative nobody to become
one of the most powerful
people in the world.
And especially about his
conduct to the Chechen War.
How are you going to show
that those fears are misplaced
and assure people that
the hard won freedoms
in Russia are now secure?
And I want
to underline, yet again,
that the actions of Russia
are not against Muslims against Chechens.
They are directed entirely
against international
extremism and terrorism, and
which have a global character.
There was no doubt that
before Putin came to power,
Russia was in a pretty chaotic state.
You have Yeltsin, basically a
barely functioning alcoholic
notionally in charge.
You have those original oligarchs.
So those very rich men
were basically plunging
Russia for its wealth.
People were of course
still licking their wounds.
The Soviet Union had only
collapsed a few years before,
and so national prestige
are being massively dented.
So you've got just a few of the elements
of a very noxious cocktail
that Putin can turn around
and go, "I can make all this better."
Yeltsin resigns as president
on typical Yeltsin dramatic fashion.
He resigns on New Year's Eve of 1999.
There's the start of the new millennium,
Putin becomes acting president.
So the first decree he
signs is to give Yeltsin
and his family perpetual
immunity from prosecution.
And not just immunity from prosecution,
but the immunity from
search, seizure, anything.
So it's quite interesting
that politically, isn't it?
Because it's basically
saying that politicians
are not accountable for their actions.
It's really, I suppose, sending a signal
that the state is going
to do what it wants
and it's not going to accept
any kind of accountability.
The first thing he does is to make sure
that he gets control of the media.
This is absolutely the
core of the creation
of the Putin system.
So under Yeltsin, there'd
been independent media.
It wasn't necessarily a
kind of broad spectrum,
but there were certainly
television stations
that were enormously critical
of the Russian government.
And Yeltsin was perfectly
happy to allow that.
Yeltsin didn't mind criticism.
Putin isn't having any of it.
He wants to absolutely control the agenda.
It was said that his predecessor,
President Boris Yeltsin,
the only thing that he
had on his desk was a pen
which he used to sign
presidential decrees.
And when Putin takes over from Yeltsin,
the pen gets replaced by a remote control
because he's so obsessed
with his image on television.
And various people who met
him early in his presidency
say sometimes he used to stop the meetings
to turn on the news to see
how he's being reported.
You hold onto power as a dictator
by getting increasingly ruthless.
You also hold onto power by making sure
that you control the message.
You got to keep lying.
Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.
So you've got to keep
your people in the dark,
and that's how you keep power.
If we go back to the Soviet Union,
really propaganda is the
attempt to persuade people
that reality is something
other than it is.
Soviet Propaganda was constantly saying
how life is much better
in the Soviet Union,
how people are starving
in the outside world.
The West is corrupt.
And there's no truth to it,
but say it enough and
force people to repeat it.
But Putin-era propaganda
is very different.
It's no longer trying to
convince people of an ideology.
It's no longer trying to convince people
that communism is the best kind of system.
Actually Putinist propaganda
isn't trying to convince
people of anything.
It's just trying to confuse.
What Putin wants is for people
not to know what's real.
Now in cities with a younger population,
a more liberal population, a
more tech savvy population,
there's ways around that.
There's YouTube, there's
social media and so on.
But they're also a
minority of the population.
The vast majority of Russia's population
live in the countryside
and get their news
entirely from state media.
But as we know these kind of conditions,
it is not always very easy.
I mean, Russia is a very big country,
huge number of people and
people living in the villages,
in the provinces, they
are more traditional
and they are more open
to official propaganda.
So change comes much, much more slowly.
In a free press, people
in the West can see
alternative narratives
and decide for themselves
which one they want to believe.
In Russia, you don't get that.
You get one narrative that you
are presented with as fact.
When Putin came to power,
some of the news organisations
were actually owned by oligarchs.
And sometimes these oligarchs
could be critical of Putin,
and that would obviously
be very annoying for Putin.
So what does he do?
He wrestles back control
of those media networks
from the oligarchs,
and that means that he's in
charge of his own message.
You see that with Hitler's Germany.
Was there any kind of
publication or media agency
of the time ultimately not
subject to Nazi control?
No, none.
A lot is made about dictatorships
being propaganda geniuses.
Well, it's not how hard
to manipulate the message
if you can control every
newspaper, every magazine,
every TV station, every
cinema, you name it.
Forget it, it's easy.
So that's the first point,
control over the media.
The next thing that you do
is that you eliminate
other political opponents.
The parties who are critical of Putin
very quickly find their
life is made very difficult.
They're starved of air time in the media.
They turn up to campaign
events to find that,
"I'm sorry, the hall is
flooded. You can't speak."
The people who are sponsoring them
are pressured to stop sponsoring them.
And also, you manipulate their ability
to actually run for office as well.
In this way, basically
Putin ends up eliminating
all of the true opposition
parties within Russia.
And we end up with a parliament,
which is still a multi-party parliament,
but basically all of the
parties in the parliament
end up agreeing with the
Putin government line.
He got the oligarchs together
and he said fundamentally,
"Right, you stay out of my face
and I'll stay out of yours.
So you don't get involved in politics.
Preferably you grow abroad."
Berezovsky and Abramovich came to London.
The only one who really stayed behind
and challenged him was a guy
called Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Really what this is is a new deal
with Russia's business elites.
They're no longer a sort
of independent power.
They're now a power that
is holding their wealth,
thanks to the goodwill of the leader.
I mean, it's a very Russian
way of dealing with things,
because this is the thing
there's no genuine opposition in Russia.
So it's a kind of political structure
that promotes mediocrity.
If there's anyone who stands out,
then there are a potential threat.
So again, there's this
kind of internal mechanism
inside dictatorships whereby
talented people do not thrive.
It's always hard,
especially with hindsight,
because as a Western leader,
you do have to try and build bridges.
It's very easy when you are in opposition
or when you're a journalist or
when you are a voter to say,
"Oh, these people are scum.
You shouldn't deal with them,"
or whatever.
As a leader, you are responsible
not only for the basics of
international diplomacy,
but also for trade.
And there's no right answer.
So I don't blame Bush and Blair
for trying to forge good
relations with Putin.
Had it worked, we wouldn't
be where we are now.
But to an extent, I would say
that the opposite was true in some ways.
I think that you can make a
good argument that Obama saying
that, "If chemical
weapons are used in Syria,
that would change my calculus."
And the chemical weapons were used,
and it didn't change his calculus.
That was a red line crossed.
Any politician knows the basis
that if you threaten something,
you had to be prepared to carry it out.
And especially to someone like Putin
on the other end of that,
that's like blood to a shark.
You can't threaten to do
something and then not do it.
Trying to be friends with Putin,
in the broad sense of the
word, trying to co-opt him,
I don't think was a bad thing.
Letting him get away with things
was a much bigger mistake.
Before I proceed to the formal part,
I would like to express
to Her Majesty The Queen
and the people of the United Kingdom,
our since condolences with the loss
of the British soldiers in Iraq.
It is clear for everyone that
in spite of the differences
that existed before, today
we need to act jointly.
My message to you, Mr. President,
is therefore one of admiration,
respect and support.
Putin's relationship
with the West has changed
and evolved over two decades.
It started off as kind of
hands being held out, shaken.
George Bush saying,
"I've looked into this man's
soul and he's a good guy."
Blair, Tony Blair, prime minister
of United Kingdom, saying,
"He's a man we can do business
with. He's all right."
Putin courted people like Blair and Bush
at the beginning of his own presidency.
Through invasion, through murder,
through gangsterism, through
theft, through terror,
the West has finally realised that Putin
is the world's latest Hitler.
For a long time, the
West have had this belief
that Putin is a man they
can do business with.
And this goes back to
Mrs. Thatcher saying,
"President Gorbachev is a man
I could do business with."
And every Western leader likes to think
they'll be the ones to sort
bring Russia into the fold,
and it never fully happens
because the Russians just
don't think that way.
And I think when they
do try and call it out,
it sort of causes so
much diplomatic Russians.
And you see this now with Biden
fundamentally calling
Putin a war criminal,
and then the State Department
start rowing back on the statements.
Oh, I think he is a war criminal.
Russia was, and is, a
very important country
in terms of our economic conditions.
Majority of the Europe
depend on Russian energy.
So what matters to many
global leaders was,
more than democracy, was
stability and continuity.
As time has gone on,
and he's concentrated power
more and more in his hands,
and he's eliminated the independent media,
and he's emasculated the parliament,
and he's destroyed all of the opposition,
that he's found himself in a situation
where he's surrounded
by this set of cronies
who are praising him and telling him
what a great leader he is
and telling him how he's
restored Russia's greatness.
And this seems to have gone to his head.
So his self-image now
seems to be very different
to what it was early in his presidency.
He now seems to see himself as
the kind of philosopher king,
who the whole future,
the whole safety of Russia
depends on him and him alone.
Russia has got this thing
about being a great power.
This dates back to the
end of the Cold War.
And it's quite hard, I think,
for lots of people in the West
to understand how humiliating
that loss for Russia was.
And ever since then, I think
he has feared the people
who beat him and he has wanted to get back
some sense of Russian pride in the world.
And that is incompatible
with an ever expanding NATO.
Today we are witnessing
an almost uncontained hyper use of force,
a military force in
international relations.
Force that is plunging the world
into an abyss of permanent conflict.
We are seeing a greater
and greater disdain
for the basic principles
of international law,
and independent legal norms
are, as a matter of fact,
becoming increasingly closer
to one state's legal system.
One state, and of course,
first and foremost,
the United States has overstepped
its national borders in every way.
This is the point at
which it's clear that Putin
doesn't want to cooperate
with the West anymore.
He denounces the United States
only acting its own interests,
it's hostile to Russia.
It wants to split it up.
It wants to steal its natural resources.
The United States wants to run the world.
This is where Putin is saying,
"We are going to do our own thing.
We are going to challenge
American dominance."
It turns out that NATO has put
its frontline forces on our borders.
And we continue to strictly
fulfil the treaty obligation
and do not react to these actions at all.
I think it is obvious that NATO expansion
does not have any relation
with the modernization
of the Alliance itself
or with the ensuring security in Europe.
On the contrary, it represents
a serious provocation
that reduces the level of mutual trust.
We have the right to ask,
against whom is this expansion intended?
He now wants to
construct a narrative of,
"There's an enemy out there
that is trying to undermine us."
That's why the Munich
Speech is so important,
because this is where this
becomes obvious to the world
that Russia is no longer
a reliable partner.
His problem with NATO is that he thinks
that NATO is an aggressive power,
and whereas NATO regards
itself as a defensive power.
And so, this is why he has this sort of
fundamental issue with
former Soviet Republics,
turning to NATO, turning to the West,
'cause he sees it as
the world against him.
I think another really important
hallmark of any dictator
is that they become increasingly paranoid.
They think the world's against them,
and then they act in that way.
And then of course,
ultimately the world then does
have to turn against them.
Putin disdains what he would regard
as sort of wokism, liberalism, freedom.
He is socially
extraordinarily conservative.
So he doesn't like gay people.
He doesn't like anybody
who deviates what he sees
as a kind of heterosexual norm.
He hates the fact that former countries
that were in the Soviet Union
or behind the Iron Curtain,
want to become Westernised
and not Russified.
He hates the fact that a Big Mac
is more seductive than
anything Putin offers.
That's the problem with people
of Putin's generation often in Russia,
people from his sort of
political background,
is they loathe the fact that
the Soviet Union was a failure,
and the fact that actually
ultimately American-style capitalism
and European-style liberalism won the day.
Clearly at this point,
he makes a judgement
that it's too dangerous to retire.
If you like, he's got too much blood
on his hands by this time.
So he's got to find a way
to maintain control
over the reins of power,
even from outside of the presidency.
What he did do
was obey the constitution.
So it showed him message to the West,
"Look, I'm not breaking
my own rules here."
Various people are
considered as a replacement
and eventually he settles on
one of his close associates
who he's known since his
time in St. Petersburg,
a man called Dmitry Medvedev.
What is Medvedev announce
when he becomes president?
"Who's my prime minister gonna be?
Ah, Vladimir V. Putin will
become my prime minister."
And of course everyone laughs about it
because it's so obvious
that although Medvedev
has the keys to the car,
the bloke in the back seat
with the steering wheel
is of course Putin.
He's real liberal and
he had a good education,
good knowledge.
He's playing to the democratic
processes in Russia.
In this case maybe are right,
I mean, more liberal than Mr. Putin.
Putin and Medvedev
are pretty inseparable.
They're kind of the same
packet really, aren't they?
No comment.
The Russian people are
completely aware of the fact
that Putin is the backseat driver
of the Medvedev presidency.
Everybody knows it.
It's the butt of jokes and satire
in a time when still in Russia,
you could laugh at Putin.
Now, it's a little bit harder.
It's very ingenious actually
because he gets Medvedev
elected as president
and Medvedev puts forward this image
that he's going to be more liberal.
He's interested in tackling corruption.
He's interested in the rule of law.
He's also interesting in
technological developments
and so on.
There's this sort of sense
It looked like things were
coming off the rails a bit
with things like the Munich Speech,
but actually now maybe
there's an opportunity
to pull Russia back.
And really this carries on fooling people
for the next four years.
You see this with pretty
that his decision making
becomes more and more concentrated.
The people who trusts
become fewer and fewer.
And when your decision making
becomes that concentrated,
you are getting less information in.
You are also being told increasingly
what you want to hear rather
than what is the truth,
and the consequences of your decisions
become more and more
catastrophic when they're wrong.
Having a lot of sources for you
to make decisions is useful,
and he's losing that.
Putin is somewhat atypical of dictators
in the sense that many dictators
seize power quite forcibly,
or if they use the democratic process,
everyone knows that they fudged it.
If Putin had just served two
terms and left in 2007, 2008,
most people would've thought
he was a great Russian leader.
Yeah, he had some problems,
but ultimately they would've
thought that he probably won
those elections fair and square.
He was a democratically elected strongman.
I think that his dictatorship is something
that's kind of emerged
and grown organically.
I don't necessarily think that
Putin's plan on day one is,
"Right, I'm going to become a dictator."
I don't think it was that.
I think his narcissism and
his desire to hold onto power,
and his anger at some issues,
have emboldened him to
take more and more power.
Often dictators are
saying to their people,
"The point about me being dictator
is I'm gonna make this
country great again,
and I'm gonna make this country
and its empire perhaps
last for a thousand years."
Hitler, "I'm gonna have
a thousand year Reich."
Putin, "I'm gonna make Russia great again.
I'm gonna claw back some of
the territories we lost."
You've got to play the long game.
It's not like in a democratic cycle,
typically four or five years.
You're looking to that next election.
Putin doesn't really have to
worry about elections anymore.
He's now worried about
his long-term legacy
and not whether he is gonna get back in
at the next election.
Putin's war, Putin's war!
There's no doubt that when
Putin runs for president again
after he's been prime minister,
that there are people
wanting to stand against him.
And those who stand against him find
that they can't get permission
for their planes to take off,
or where they're going to give a meeting,
the water pipe is conveniently
burst an hour before.
Or wherever they're trying
to take their supporters out to eat,
there are no waiters for some reason.
It's dirty ops.
Nasty, dirty tricks being
played on all the opponents.
After the financial crisis in 2008,
when the economy stops
growing and people's
standards of living really stop improving,
and even more so in the
recent period with the effects
of the pandemic and so forth
where people's living standards
have really taken a hit,
you've got to find some kind
of a new source of legitimacy.
And that new source is, "We are unsafe.
There are enemies at our doorstep
or even inside our country.
There are fifth columnists
inside our country
who are traitors who are
trying to destroy us.
And so you need me.
I am, as it were, the
biggest dog in the pack.
I am the person who can
take our enemies down
and keep the people safe."
Everybody said don't get
involved in a civil war.
And he got involved in a civil war
and managed to keep his man in charge.
But the other important thing I think
about the intervention in Syria
is it's part of this project
to reassert Russia as a great power.
Because really what he's saying is,
"There are these various
problems in the Middle East
and you, the outside world,
cannot solve the problems in
the Middle East without me."
There's a kind of general
points that Putin's willingness
to ally with a regime
that's perfectly prepared
to use chlorine gas or sarin or whatever
on its own population
is just an illustration
that Putin doesn't care about
the lives of ordinary people.
What Putin cares about is
power politics and geopolitics.
It may or may not be coincidence
that that happened in 2013,
and a year later of Putin
invaded Crimea and Donbas.
I don't think anything is
ever as simple as that.
But, yes, I would say that the
moment that chemical attack
is left unchallenged, Putin will think,
"Okay, if they won't
challenge me in Syria,
which is in many ways a proxy war,
they certainly won't challenge
me in Crimea and Donbas,
which I regards my backyard."
And he was right.
I would go even further back than Syria,
when the Second Chechen War was happening
with huge amount of civilian casualties
and all human rights organisations,
including Russian ones
and the Western ones,
they were shouting screaming saying that,
"Look, this is huge crisis.
This is a crime against humanity."
None of the Western governments
seriously criticised Putin.
Not enough people
looked at the Chechen War
and realised quite how
brutal and horrible that was,
how the death and destruction that went on
was barbaric and horrific,
and it was ordered by Putin.
The longer the war in Ukraine goes on,
the more it's gonna get Chechnya.
The more cities in Ukraine
are gonna look like Aleppo in Syria,
i.e., no longer existing.
I mean, this is the thing,
no one really knows why now.
As in, he could have done it
at any time in the last eight years.
The invasion of Crimea
And this is the thing that the conflict
has been going on in
Ukraine for eight years now.
As to why he's done it now, I mean,
he did it obviously in the winter
because it's technically
easier to go over frozen ground
than it would be in the summer,
although not that you necessarily know it
by the losses the Russian army have taken.
There's lots of speculation
about the state of his health,
about his own personal
reasons for doing it.
Again, no one really knows.
It's very tempting for
people to look at pictures
of his puffy face and go,
"Oh, he must have terminal
cancer or whatever."
Who knows?
It's tempting to think of him
as this sort of mix of Howard
Hughes and Hitler in Downfall,
sort of pacing vast black
sea mansions, isolated,
paranoid about COVID.
I think it's all of at
peace with his world view.
Putin defines its success, strength,
anything that's revealed him to be strong,
anything that's made
his opponent look weak.
So when he goes into these other countries
and they do nothing,
like going to Crimea in 2014
and stealing that off Ukraine,
that was a huge success.
He's a gambler. He's reckless.
He's like a person who drives through
a red light at 100 miles an hour.
And if he hasn't had a crash, he says,
"That's been a successful manoeuvre."
Well, most people regard that
as not a particularly
successful thing to have done.
You've almost killed yourself
and other people doing it.
But that's fine by him.
What's clear is that
some political murders
in the Putin period are
absolutely inconceivable
that they've been carried
out without Putin's say so.
For example, the poisoning
of Alexander Litvinenko,
the former KGB agent in London.
Litvinenko has poison put in his tea,
dies of radiation poisoning.
Absolutely inconceivable
that that wasn't done
without the direct orders of Putin.
That was certainly the clear conclusion
of the Litvinenko Inquiry.
Similarly with the Skripal poisoning,
the attempted murder of
the former KGB agents,
Serge Skripal, and his
daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury.
The Salisbury poisonings aren't unique,
but they're very rare.
They were certainly a shock
to those of us who live
just outside Salisbury.
The idea that my child
could have discovered
that vial of Novichok rather
than poor old Dawn Sturgess,
who did and died as a result.
So I think that they are
a absolutely despicable
and vile way of trying
to project state power,
which is exactly what Putin was doing.
And it's a way of saying that,
"Never be a traitor to me,
'cause you always going to end up badly."
Poisoning someone is
actually hard to do,
and it's almost as if they
do it because they can
and because it sends a message.
Poison is difficult.
It's tricky.
It's dangerous to the people doing it.
It's a peculiarly Russian thing to do.
It's unnecessarily brutal.
Nemtsov was an interesting case,
'cause Nemtsov was probably the one leader
who could have been the guy
the West could have dealt with.
He was the wrong side of when
the musical chair stopped.
He was an incredibly able,
intelligent, charismatic,
tall, handsome.
So I mean quite a rockstar,
certainly by political terms.
And then he became an
opposition politician,
an economic advisor to the
Ukrainian government for a while.
He was preparing a report on
Russian involvement in Ukraine.
This is after the invasion in 2014.
He was shot and killed.
He was shot on that bridge
just after the Kremlin.
Nothing happens on that bridge
without the Kremlin knowing.
I mean, it's one of the
most heavily guarded
and most easily surveyed
places in all of Russia,
as you'd expect from somewhere
so close to the Kremlin.
All the cameras were off for maintenance.
There was one camera, which
was a TV company's camera,
200 metres away.
There was a street cleaning vehicle
that stopped just for the right place.
And this is proper, proper FSB operation.
I mean, this is very well done.
And Putin had this big thing that,
"We're going to find out who did it."
A variety of Chechens were blamed.
But that's what happens in Russia,
if you are any kind of threat,
you get jailed, like Kolkovski,
you get poisoned like Navalny,
or you get shot like Nemtsov.
That's the way they do things.
That's the way they've always done things.
There's three ways that he might go,
assuming that he doesn't either die
or hand over power voluntarily.
At the moment, they're
all pretty unlikely.
The first is some kind
of Western operation,
either a Special Forces
operation or a missile strike,
neither of which are gonna happen.
I mean, he's so well guarded that even
the best Western Special
Forces in the world
are not going to A, find him,
or B, actually do something about it.
The second is a palace coup,
is someone from the inside.
There's a lot of talk about the oligarchs
getting together and
somehow forcing Putin out.
That's not plausible either.
Putin keeps the oligarchs at arms length.
The only people he really
trusts are called the Silovik,
the enforcers.
They are his old guys,
his old friends from the Leningrad KGB.
It's a very small circle
who have access to him.
Probably less than 10
who have genuine unfettered access to him.
The problem with that
is that their fortunes
are tied to his.
And yes, there's a stage,
a foreseeable stage,
where things get so bad that
they could move against him,
but it would need to be so bad
that they would all move against him.
And the third is a popular uprising.
There was research from a
Harvard political scientist
a few years ago that suggested
that you only need 3.5% of a population
to be really committed to change,
and active in doing so,
to get regime change.
If you've got rulers
that you don't like,
and you can't get rid of
them through elections,
then your only alternative
is mass protest.
You know, revolution.
But it's very difficult
to start a revolution in a police state.
It's far too risky.
It's far too personally dangerous.
The one human right that
Putin has left alone
is freedom of movement.
There's been an enormous out migration
of the Russian middle classes.
Don't have to purge your opposition.
You can just send them into exile.
He had all the conditions.
He had a huge country with
amazing level of resources.
It's not only oil and gas,
almost everything else you need,
any kind of mineral you can
find under Russian soil.
And geographically, this
huge land has huge potential,
large number of people.
So by considering all
this as an investment
and building on top of this,
he could have become a
very successful leader.
A very popular leader for Russian people,
but this wasn't enough for him.
He doesn't want to focus internally.
He wants to make Russia a great nation,
just like in the times of
the Russian Tsar's empire.
He wants to be the leader
of this greater Russia.
I think this is his one vulnerability.
And if the Ukrainian
situation, one way or another,
kept under control with
some kind of a ceasefire
and then peace,
and maybe the conflict
will continue for a while
but at a lower scale,
I don't think that will be enough for him.
I'm sure he will find something else next.
Ruthlessness and lack
of compassion, I suppose,
is a fairly useful quality in a dictator.
We see throughout Putin's presidency,
a sort of utter indifference
to the value of human life.
If it's a choice between
human life and his power,
he's always consistently chosen his power.
Putin's Achilles' heel
is his own ambition.
I think he's overreached himself.
I think that he is
attempting now to do things
that actually he doesn't have the manpower
or material or ultimately
the support to do it.
I think that's his problem.
He's been in power for too long.
That paranoiac narcissistic mentality
has now completely in control of him.
He's not mad,
but he's no longer got that
perspective that he needs.
All of the economic
progress that Russia has made
in the 22 years before that
decision is just frittered away.
If his end game is to make Russia
as big and as powerful
as the Soviet Union,
he's still got a very long way to go.
And he's gonna have a hell of a fight
because I don't think that the Free World
is really gonna stand for it.
I don't think the people
of all the countries
that Putin wants to have
back under Russia's control
are gonna stand for it.
Putin's legacy will undoubtedly
be one of the most hated
and reviled and evil men who's
ever lived on this planet.
Whoever replaces Putin,
I will bet quite a lot of money on,
most of us won't have heard
of him, or perhaps her.
The problem with getting rid
of Putin, that's one thing,
but who's going to replace him
and could the replacement be worse?
It's hard to see how in the long run
he's able to actually
maintain his position.
There's been a sort of
deal with the insiders
in the Kremlin and the
Putin presidency, which is,
"Do what I want, and you
are free to steal at will
and live the kind of lifestyle
that you never imagined."
That deal has been completely broken,
so what's their motivation
to continue to support him?
Well, in the short run,
Russian patriotism.
We're restoring our imperial greatness.
But if that fails, what's left?