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Has Putin gone mad? The 'Putin Paradox' that will lead to his downfall

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President Putin is living in a world driven by personal vested interests – namely money, survival, and security-dominated ideas of Russia’s glory formed when it was still the stalwart of the Soviet Union. The result is the artificially created war that Ukraine is now suffering through and the veiled threat of nuclear war should NATO involve itself in the conflict – and while President Putin is concerned with the expansion of his influence in Europe, his incompetence in helping those at home could ultimately pave the way for another megapower to displace Russia’s standing in the world.

John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography at the University of Birmingham, calls this the ‘Putin Paradox’.

He told Express.co.uk: “Putin’s legacy will be constructed around the Putin Paradox which reflects a concern with the country’s international standing at the expense of the longer-term interests of the Russian people.

“The immediate and longer-term interests of the Russian people rest on national economic security rather than any perceived security threats associated with Ukraine.”

“When I think of Putin, I think of the people of Salisbury and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and the death of Dawn Sturgess via a Novichok nerve agent in 2018.

“Putin’s response to this incident was predictable with Russia accusing the UK of spreading propaganda.

“The Salisbury incident was an example of Russian incompetence, and I would suggest that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine are another sign of Putin’s incompetence.

“This incompetence can be explained by the paradox that sits behind this new European war and Putin’s overconcern with Russian national security. But what is this Putin Paradox?”

READ MORE: What the EU has refused to do to help Ukraine

Dr Bryson argues Putin is obsessed with Russia still being considered a major power on the world stage, an obsession he has held since the end of the Soviet Union.

He said: “This is reflected in recent investments in military hardware and the Ukrainian conflict.

“This is positioned within a discourse of protecting national security. To Putin, evidently Ukraine was a major military threat to the Russian people.”

Dr Bryson says it is clear this is the culmination of paranoia, and not based on any evidence.

President Putin has often cited a well-known Russian saying which translates to “even death is beautiful” – and by sending his conscripted troops into the artificially created war in Ukraine, it is certainly true he believes others should pay the ultimate price to secure his dreams.

But the effect the war could have on the ordinary Russian citizen could be too much for President Putin to survive.

The result of this, Dr Bryson explains, is the ultimate paradox of President Putin’s rule – even as he pleads to Russians via heavily controlled state media that he must stop the “genocide” of ethnic Russians living in the Donbas region – fundamentally forgets the price ordinary Russians will be required to pay for his delusions.

Dr Bryson continues: “Russia’s military operations in Ukraine are more about Putin’s status, and his concern with hierarchy, and less about the Russian people and national security.

“On the other hand, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major threat to Russia’s national economic security.

“This is the Putin Paradox that sits at the heart Russia’s Ukrainian strategy.”

Russia has been mired in recent years by declining living standards, increased poverty, inflation, as well as a healthcare crisis – and their problems continue unabated.

Sanctions currently being implemented by world leaders will have a knock on effect on the Russian economy – even if the most severe sanctions, such as Russia’s removal from the SWIFT bank system, are yet to be actioned.

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Dr Bryson argues: “Putin has not been good for the Russian economy. The country faces relatively low potential economic growth that needs to be addressed to raise incomes and living standards.

“But military conflict in Ukraine will undermine Russia’s ability to engage in global value chains that will be central to the successful restructuring of the Russian economy.”

So severe the worst sanctions will be on Russian daily life that it will push the country further and further away from the prosperity and international integrity Putin craves, and give the proverbial trophy to China instead.

Dr Bryson explains: “One might argue that Russia’s future lies with China, but all this might mean is that Russia would become increasingly subservient to Chinese interests.”

China has so far failed to condemn Russia for its incursion, but has also played it safe by not endorsing them either, meaning it has stopped short of incurring the wrath of western nations and NATO.

China is also one of Kyiv’s biggest trading partners, estimated at £11.37 billion in 2020, and also sees Ukraine as a commercial opportunity in its ambitious belt-and-road economic initiative.

Dr Bryson said: “China must balance the tensions of wanting to strengthen military and strategic ties with Russia whilst also not being perceived to support a European war.”

A break between Moscow and Beijing is highly unlikely – their relationship has long been burgeoning and they share several ideological standpoints, one of the most pertinent ones being President Putin’s hatred for Western interference in their affairs.

But China would have a chance to exert further influence by becoming an economic lifeline to Russia.

After easing restrictions on wheat earlier this month, China could soften the blow of any economic pain inflicted on Moscow by increasing its share of energy imports.

Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer and the second-largest producer of natural gas.

This symbiotic relationship would strengthen the Chinese economy significantly, while making Russia dependent on it.



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