The Putin Syndicate

On September 22, 2015, the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center hosted Mr. Brian Whitmore, Senior Editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and author of Russia-watch blog The Power Vertical. Ms. Hannah Thoburn of the Hudson Institute and Dr. Ulrich Speck of the Transatlantic Academy joined the panel conversation to discuss the notion that President Vladimir Putin governs Russia through a mafia-like system. Mr. Whitmore discussed the “Putin Syndicate” as a system of power run in an organized crime manner. According to Mr. Whitmore, Putin’s corrupt, mafia-style governance further extends to Russia’s foreign policy. As evidence of this, Mr. Whitmore cited examples of unprovoked Russian aggression in its near abroad, including its wars in Georgia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet states.

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The other panelists largely agreed with his views. In their opinion, post-Soviet Russia has not yet gone through the necessary catharsis needed to come to terms with its imperial past. One point of contention occurred concerning how mafia-like Russia really was. Dr. Speck cautioned that while the Russian state indeed had many mafia-style elements, certain institutions like the military and the security services were competent and well-funded, perhaps if only to perpetuate the government’s hold on the country.