Missing in Action: “Chess Player” Putin
A deadlier than average flu comes around so the leader of country X follows everyone else into hounding his people into their apartments and taking off points from the national GDP. This in a country that is already under a financial siege by powerful enemies that makes growth and recovery difficult. The forced mass home arrest doesn’t even work to cut elderly flu deaths, but arbitrary and unnecessary denials of non-flu care do contribute to the country recording some of the highest excess mortality rates in the world.
Soon after this leader escalates a war but ‘forgets’ (!) to pull his country’s reserves out of the banks of its enemies ahead of time. So the reserves that the country has spent years (!) living frugally to build up are confiscated by its enemies.
Now, trying to describe this leader, what words would come to your mind, and would “amazing chess player” be one of them?
I don’t know about you, but the words that would come to my mind would more likely be along the lines of “fool”, “bumbler”, and “OMFG I don’t even”.
Whether you believe that Putin was an “amazing chess player” up until early 2020 or not, I’d think you’d have to agree that evidence of any amazing moves since then has been sorely missing. On the contrary, we have seen at least two incredibly airheaded moves.
All that would have taken not to go down the lockdown path would have been to follow Lukashenko’s example. And all that would have taken to not get half of Russia’s FX reserves stolen would have been to phone Nabiullina ahead of the war and pick her brain for three minutes. She could have had those euros out of foreign banks if only she had been told to sanction-proof them.
These are just the two most egregious blunders, but the scary part is if he committed these two boneheaded errors what else may he have gotten wrong lately? (But perhaps in a less immediately obvious way).
PS.: Personally I always thought that presenting Putin as this uniquely brilliant godsend to Russia post-Yeltsin was bordering on the patronizing and selling Russia short. Yeltsin had brought the country to its knees. There was no way left but up. Anyone who followed who wasn’t drinking himself to death, and who had Yeltsin as an example of what not to do would have ended up presiding over a recovery of some kind. I never saw evidence that Putin did any better than could a number of patriots such as Primakov and Lebed. Are Russians really such dumdums that a run-of-the-mill pragmatic statist like Putin is one in 150 million?
In the international arena, Putin’s Russia has often pursued a course that has at once been more coherent and more nimble than that of western powers, but then decision-making is more centralized in Russia whereas in the US and the west too many cooks spoil the soup.