All strongmen build “inner sanctums” to manage day-to-day governance. Composed of flatterers, family members and cronies, all of them chosen for their loyalty rather than their expertise, they shield him from any unpleasant counsel — and share handsomely in the profits from his thievery. This is certainly the case in Russia, a fully realized kleptocracy: In 2018, 3 percent of Russians held about 90 percent of the country’s assets, with Putin’s oligarchs owning the lion’s share of those.
As the tragedy in Ukraine unfolds, Russian President Vlaimir Putin will show his hand ever more as an individual who is motivated by personal glory and megalomania. If the history of strongmen is any indication, it may be downhill for the Russian leader from here.
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