The Beauty and the Beast:
Psychological Analysis of Relations between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin
Ekaterina Egorova, Ph.D., Political Profiler, President,
Elizaveta Egorova, Ph.D., Political Profiler, CEO
Perhaps, when Hillary Clinton thinks of Vladimir Putin, she perceives him as a beast. Most likely, Putin returns her regard, in equal measure. What they fail to see is their common self-perception as themselves as a beauty, a pure statesman solely guided by the highest moral values, with the strongest desire to satisfy their people’s needs, and the willingness to calculate risks in both foreign and domestic policy. Could one or the other be able to act out this wisdom and preserve the world from another Cold or hot War?
Russian President Vladimir Putin will have outlasted three U.S. presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – sixteen years, since 2000, of experience. The current Russian president has been negotiating with former United States state governors. Hillary Clinton is a former United States Secretary of State and a former U.S. Senator. This diplomatic experience should make her a formidable player and be closer to peer-to-peer diplomacy from the beginning of her term of office. Both players have strong personalities, comparable psychological characteristics, and mutual distrust. Is Putin readying himself to cross swords with Clinton? Can Clinton hold her tough stance against Putin?
Indeed, she is a worldly-wise political leader and is wholly prepared to assume the presidency by her extensive political and foreign policy background. Hillary knows in details all the niceties and secret passages of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, serving as First Lady and right hand to her husband Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, and then, as a Secretary of State to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. A former senator from New York, she combines knowledge of the undercurrent mechanisms of public policy with subtlety in international relations. This is essential in foreign policy and Clinton has this shorthand ready.
Wayward and stubborn, yet cool under pressure, President Putin is seasoned by his 16 years of presidency and experience of close communication with world leaders. Putin has a long history of personal distrust and resentment of the U.S., being offended to his core by what he sees as repeated and long-term attempts by the West to humiliate Russia and its leader. This has only compounded his dislike of Clinton over the years. In his mental model, Hillary is perceived as hawkish and rapaciously unappeasable; an extension of the U.S. demeaning rhetoric to himself and Russia. Already dramatically worsened U.S.-Russia relations are being tuned by Putin to endure a new wave of tension. Putin tightens his mental strings.
Clinton and Putin
Two strong leaders, two complex personalities, and equal chances for great expectations and lost illusions. Despite reciprocal antipathy and the exchange of vociferous criticism, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin cannot avoid interaction and cooperation on a wide range of important foreign policy issues ranging from mediating international conflicts to countering weapons of mass destruction, trafficking, and terrorism.
They are strong leaders with robust self-images. The complexity of their personality as Head of the State influences domestic and foreign policy priorities and strategies, decision-making, and communication style, and the leadership vector. The leader draws the contours of international cooperation and shapes the results, impacting the global balance of power. Psychological analysis of political leaders helps to decypher the mechanisms driving foreign policy behavior and decisions. Forecast and prediction of the future direction of the U.S.-Russia relations rests on an understanding of how the personalities and psychological characteristics of Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin can affect and impact their interaction, which traits can stimulate mutually beneficial cooperation, and which stifle their relationship.
Many publications about Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin demonstrate who both leaders share nearly identical personality features and behavioral settings. Basic personal characteristics of a political leader are constructed in his or her childhood. Over the years, they have strengthened. Clinton and Putin grew up in families lacking human warmth and financial prosperity. Clinton and Putin were deprived of much enjoyed by children from the happier and wealthier families. It is clear that both these leaders emerged from childhood with a need to take on a higher social status, determined never to repeat their sad early experiences, searching for compensation for their self-esteem.
Many features of the political personality of State Hillary Clinton formed in a childhood not peaceful, not happy. It is known that her father was demanding and authoritarian, withholding affection and warmth. Hillary’s brother Hugh Jr. describes their farther as “confrontational”. Roger Morris estimates the Clinton family atmosphere as an ongoing psychological abuse and «had known no intervals».
Hillary’s father formed her high ambitions and the belief that success is a necessary measure of self-esteem though Hillary sought in vain her father’s approval and support. Hillary speaks about her understanding and warm mother. One episode from her childhood explains more about today’s Hillary Clinton and what she has internalized as maternal understanding and warmth. Psychologist Paul Loevinger writes: “Mother Dorothy was also hard to please. It was Dorothy who said there was no room in the house for cowards when little Hillary ran home after an attack by an “obnoxious girl.” Forced to confront her attacker, she won the battle and now had the respect of the neighborhood players … ” In early childhood, Hillary learned attacking an opponent would earn the respect of her father, her mother, her peers, herself.
In this regard, the Mother Dorothy incident recalls the famous phrase of Vladimir Putin: “If a fight is inevitable, it is necessary to strike first.” Raised on the mean streets of Leningrad, Vladimir Putin learned its lessons in full: no one to believe in, no one to be afraid of, do not ask but take it for yourself. Putin says: “One should never fear threats. It’s like with a dog. A dog senses when somebody is afraid of it, and bites…If you become jittery, they will think that they are stronger….. .” Only one thing works: Go on the offensive. You must hit first, and hit so hard that your opponent will not rise to his feet…”. Since childhood he carries this belief.
Clinton’s parental family has created all the prerequisites for the formation of an injured self-esteem, needed for compensation. Morris quotes one who knew the family Clinton: ” I do not think there’s any question that the real little Hillary was broken … the point is how she got mended, and the person put in her place”. According to Morris, “there was no real hiding the quiet cruelty and pain. The sense of stinted or denied love, a resort to refuge outside the family, the alternating warmth and vitriol, compassion and sarcasm, the tightly controlled yet seething perpetual anger not far beneath the impenetrable shell – all would be visible in the independent but camouflaged woman she became. ”
Today, in her writing and in her speech, Hillary emphasizes how much she likes and how fully comfortable she is with who she is, what she stands for, and what she has always stood for. She says that “There’s a certain consistency to who I am and what I do”. Clinton makes it clear that she assesses herself according to her own criteria and values, and worries little about external perception. It is more likely that, in reality, she has difficulty perceiving and accounting for any different attitude to her from other people, rather than she does not care of their opinion. She says, “The truth is that sometimes it is hard even for me to recognize the Hillary Clinton that other people see”.
Hillary sees her own many features as fine, fair, and worthy of praise. These include documented academic, social, and political achievements and less tangible ones. She, without false modesty, describes her role in the Bill Clinton era as a co-presidency; she said, “We are the president.” She regards herself as hardheaded with stamina and full of resilience.
For Hillary, it is important to be a part of History. She complains that «government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics “. Hillary claims instead that she does not worry about history. “That will work itself out over time. »
Hillary has a certain image of how she would like to be perceived, but an obstacle to this perception is gender. “If I were a man, they would probably say what a great, strong person this fellow is, how commanding he is, and all the rest … ”
Putin, like Clinton, had not been spoiled nor pampered by either parent, who had neither the finances nor the time for his upbringing. It is known his father could pay little attention to his son as he worked so hard for the family to survive in the bleak post-war period. The demanding father formed his understanding that you to become the best and the first in every undertaking to achieve something in life.
According to Putin’s ex-wife, young Putin described himself as «not a talker, can be pretty harsh, can hurt your feelings”. Today Putin is authoritarian, pragmatic, ready to use military force, and tough-minded. His current self-esteem is almost hyper-compensated. He has a strong sense of self-efficacy. For Putin, being ignored is far worse than being hated.
Putin’s self-esteem is fueled by the world’s recognition of him as a powerful leader. He is indifferent as to whether he is seen as a force for good or for evil. Putin is the gold standard in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign; American candidates are assessed as capable or not to sit across the table and negotiate with the Russian president. Like it or not, like him or not, Putin is a measuring rod, as well as a lighting rod, in world politics.
Putin is a part of Russian History already. While, Nikita Khrushev, the General Secretary of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, is reviled today as a drunken traitor who gifted Crimea to Ukraine, Putin is a national hero who returned a psychologically important part of Russia – Crimea. This fact is enough for many of his supporters.
Hillary’s self-esteem has influenced largely the formation of her political motivation. The problems of her relationship with her spouse and political opponents have only aggravated her injured self-esteem and increased the need for the implementation of her compensatory motives for power, control, and success achievement.
Clinton’s motivation for power was significantly developed by her childhood experience. According to her classmate Bob Stenson, “With no patience for her intellectual inferiors, she seemed to seek out intelligent boys, then cooly compete with them, establishing her dominance. It was not a matter of finding equality, some came to think, but a matter of maintaining a respectful superiority … She was strong and secure and graceful, almost aloof … She was tough competitor and formidable.”
Today Hillary is called “power-hungry”. And indeed she is. Power is an important personal goal for Hillary. To predict her foreign policy as President of the United States it is necessary to understand what that high need for power implies. It often causes the leader to rely on force to solve international problems. It is manifested in acute competition, in a desire to control other actors, aggressiveness, arrogance, intolerance to other points of view, and authoritarianism. Many authors describe these traits in the personality of Hillary Clinton. American psychologist Aubrey Immelman suggests Clinton is a dominant personality «who enjoys the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect”. David Geffen asks: “Is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?” One of Hillary’s classmate calls her in her high school years as “very competitive at everything. Even pugnacious. She was very ambitious. ”
This high need for power will propel Hillary Clinton into tough and possibly intolerant stance foreign partners, especially in the case of significant disagreement. Hillary Clinton will be anxious in relations with Putin to the point of playing the zero-sum game. She will compete with him in every foreign policy situation, even when American and Russian interests clash only in the least degree. For her, it is personally important to push him and expose him in his secondary role. However, knowledge and diplomatic experience, coupled with pragmatism, may soften her tough foreign policy behavior.
Putin has exactly the same traits as Hillary and his need for power is even higher than her’s. Putin is recognized as a “Power Hungry Dictator”, an ambitious leader who is extremely competitive.
Putin’s high need for power and his childhood belief, that force solves many problems in life, influence his foreign policy. Force for him is a good and reliable tool in international relations, battle-tested in war with Georgia and with ISIS in Syria. His power orientation and tough foreign policy have emerged clearly in recent years. Political force and toughness were effective in relation to Erdogan after the shooting down of Russian fighter Su-24.
Putin is indifferent to the opinion of foreign leaders on his politics whether domestic or international. He displays arrogance when met with disagreement and criticism in international communications. If Putin interprets any external act as an attempt to humiliate himself or Russia, he reacts immediately. Putin says that, in childhood, he learned to be ready to instantaneously respond to insult. His classmate recalls that Volodya, young Vladimir Putin, “could fight anyone, even one with a hefty red-neck. If, for example, he insulted Putin, then Volodya immediately jumped on the bull, scratching, biting him, tearing out tufts of hair, he did anything but allow anyone to humiliate him.” Any provocation, unconscious or deliberate, will goad him into actions that could disrupt the status quo.
Putin is as dominant, ambitious, ready to attack quickly, and comfortable in conflict as good warrior, as Clinton. Once these power-hungry politicians feel the international arena closing in on them, like two bears in one den, it could cause a dangerous conflict between their countries or satellites.
These common traits of Putin and Clinton compromise an effective outcome of their cooperation. Both politicians perceive their personal power as their country’s power in international arena. So they will feel great need to compete hard for the prize position in the championship for the world leadership.
Clinton has a high need for control. She believes that “if you’re not in control of events, events control you”. Experienced Hillary understands that it is impossible control everything, especially in international relations. She sais: “you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control.”
For her, it is important to manage personally a significant situation. She refuses to entrust it to anybody else. The relations with Russia will be in her hands and her reins will direct her Secretary of State. She will participate in foreign policy more deeply and personally than the previous presidents, Obama, Bush, and her husband Clinton.
For Putin equally, it is important to monitor personally all the processes that are substantial for Russia and for him. Accustomed to manual direction of the country, he is committed to the careful control of foreign policy events where Russia has interests. He controlled in person operation “Retaliation” in Syria against ISIS after the terroristic attack on a Russian passenger plane from Sharm el-Sheikh. He has always had a high need for control of events and people and, today, this motivation has become even stronger. More and more, Putin controls powerful domestic military and government organizations with the aim of making his own ultimate and independent decisions.
Hillary has a great need for achievement. As early as 1994, Connie Bruck wrote that Hillary “always has a goal; apparently, setting goals is for her both a habit of mind and a way of life. Some friends have suggested that her goal now may well be to become President herself “. Clinton is a good strategist used to setting a goal and working out the best way, in detail, to achieve it. Hillary describes her own ability to concentrate on the task: “I’m one of these very focused people”.
Hillary is result-oriented, and always on the lookout for opportunities. She can be sufficiently flexible if she understands the need for this flexibility is required to achieve the final success. Tough direct actions are much more distinctive to her. If Hillary Clinton has outlined a goal, she will not swerve from the path to reach it. Many authors stress her determination. Clinton’s analytical mind, the ability to see a situation stereoscopically, her shrewdness, and capacity to keep personal emotions out of play, make her an effective achiever. She knows what she needs and how to get it.
Hillary always was a perfectionist. This quality was evident in her childhood. She remembers, “My farther would come home and say, ‘you did well, but could you do better?” Hillary describes her process of formulating goals, “I’m somebody who gets up every day and says, ‘What am I going to do today, and how am I going to do it?’ I think it moves me toward some outcome I’m hoping for and also has some, you know, some joy attached to it.” She knows everyone has successes and failures. The question is of response, how to react to either. In the case of failure, the most thorough analysis of what happened should be done, which is followed by an adjustment of each step. In the case of success, Clinton has one response; the goal has been achieved and it is time to move on to the next.
For Clinton, the best healing for injuries to her self-esteem has been the successful outcome of her activities. She needs to implement her plans in life, whether it’s a significant project or a high political position. The bliss of presidential power and authority must be complemented by the balm of foreign policy successes. The question is, how will the goals be selected and policy formulated?
Like Hillary, Putin has high need for achievement. His absolute goals are success, victory and security. He must have the advantage in relations with his partners or adversaries. Losses are unacceptable, therefore nonexistent, in his mental model of the world. Putin’s identity as a winner is confirmed by sixteen years of power as the President of Russia.
Like Clinton, fixated on accomplishment, Vladimir Putin views those surrounding himself either as assists or as obstacles to his goal. Assists will be used pragmatically. Obstacles will be removed. Any ineffective start, any blockage, only enhances the stated goal’s desirability. Putin has a strong appetite not just for victory but also for triumph.
Putin is oriented toward results and is flexible in his politics. The end is more important that the means or the way to it. He never loses sights of his goals if he really needs them, seeking the best path. Putin is a perfectionist in pursuit. High need for achievement overlaps with high orientation towards duty. Putin explains his goals and actions in terms of his presidential duties and obligations to Russia and its people.
Hillary’s relationships with other people are difficult to unfold. They combine ice and fire – coldness and outbursts of anger – when she is annoyed by someone or at something. Coldness can be explained by multiple personal wounds associated with the rejection in family relations, as a child and as a spouse, and by her own frustrated need for affiliation, affection, and approval. Elizabeth Drew says, that «She can be very cold … Hillary is not the one to provide approval.” Closedness has become one of the important defense mechanisms of her personality, saving her from further trauma. She distances herself from people under the guise of arrogance and sarcasm, trying to keep herself apart and therefore safe. “People who have known her well acknowledge her protective shell. “Hillary is a person who feels herself very vulnerable, and her response is to make herself bulletproof,” said Nancy Pietrafesa, a classmate of Mrs. Clinton’s at Wellesley College “. Hillary is an introvert, who is willing to behave sociably if it is necessary for professional purposes. Hillary does not feel safe with people and has been accustomed to rely on herself. Clinton is more secure alone.
Sometimes Hillary is unable to control her rage. Staff at the White House feared her, according to presidential aide, “She’s the only person around here people are afraid of.” But this rampant behavior in relation to other political leaders could trigger a serious foreign policy problem. In speech she sounds intimidating, in person appears cold and arrogant. Bob Woodward characterizes the communicative style of Clinton: “On occasion she snapped at people, even blew up, providing a momentary glimpse of inner rage. She seemed angry, bottled up». Often she was angry and did not recognize that she hurt people.
Clinton’s communicative style is characterized as direct, tough, and confrontational, often arrogant. It is difficult to argue with her, as she is not interested in the point of view of other people.
Hillary Clinton has been reproached for her lack of empathy. Unable to identify or sympathize, she fails to understand her counterparts, to see their inner world, their underlying motives, although one of Hillary’s teachers at Yale University was psychoanalyst Anna Freud, a daughter of Sigmund Freud. Hillary has the knowledge to analyze the motives and behavior of others but lacks the willingness to use it because of her own personal characteristics.
She is «extraordinary self-confident and to be dismissive of others”. Connie Bruck points out that “the sureness about her own judgment-at its extreme, a sense that she alone is wise – is probably Hillary’s cardinal trait.” Hillary realizes that her belief in her own rightness may complicate her relations with other people. “When I was growing up, my parents always told me that I had to do what I thought was right and not listen to other people. That was hard for me.” This belief leads Hillary to refuse others their right to their position.
Hillary is used to trusting no one. She often perceives an unfavorable situation as a conspiracy by her opponents.
Marc Leibowitz note, “Mrs. Clinton was thin-skinned and took criticism hard. Her response was often to buckle down and lash out “. Her defensiveness was partly due to her direct manner and doubting nature”.
It is interesting that Hillary Clinton calls Putin ‘a tough guy with a thin skin’. In his relations with other people, Putin is often distant and arrogant, sarcastic and ironic. He, like Clinton, is introvert. As is the case with Hillary, the Russian leader has a narrow circle of people whom he respects.
Putin is similarly characterized by distrust. He is sensitive to any signal he interprets as a betrayal. German Gref, who has known Putin for a long time, says, “I know how difficult it is going through a personal betrayal. I know the people with whom he was very good-natured way. After they did some things that do not line up with his view of the world, decency, he simply cut off them and never met them. ”
Clinton and Putin.
These similarities, in their style of personal interaction, of Vladimir Putin and Hilary Clinton has distanced them in necessary communications in the past. Their future interactions may be even less constructive.
The belief system of Hillary Clinton has been shaped over the long years of her political career. At first weakly defined, Clinton has refined it with experience, and now it cannot be fundamentally changed. Some beliefs are of particular interest from the perspective of interaction with Putin.
Clinton believes that the world is divided in two: friends or enemies. In her own words: «Every nation has to either be with us, or against us”. Many authors point that Hillary focuses on adversaries. Gail Sheehy says: “Hillary becomes obsessed. When she has an enemy … one or the other is going to be killed.” Anyone who in any way hinders the achievement of her objectives is perceived as an enemy by Hillary.
Diplomatically Putin refers to European and American leaders as “partners”, but his ironic tone leaves no doubt of his true connotation of the term. He, like Clinton, perceives the foreign policy world as a platform for intense rivalry with the possibility of temporary alliances based on common interests. Once Putin said that he belives, as Russian Emperor Alexander III first articulated, “Russia has two allies – the Army and Navy.”
Clinton, not being an optimist nor a pessimist, in her foreign policy views relies on realism. Driven to succeed, of course she tries to do as much as possible to achieve but realizes that many processes are not always good as needed, and it is necessary to ready for negative developments. «I am someone who hopes for the best and prepares for the worst.”
Clinton is as insincere as Putin when she speaks of her deferential relationship with competitors in the international arena. She tries to appear softer than her actions. «Showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand, in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions. ” Her words fail to convince. Her foreign policy record speaks volumes.
If Putin has a mission to restore Russian power in the world and his vocation it to return it to superpower status, Clinton is devoted to the preservation of the United States as the most powerful country. She believes sincerely that American primacy is not only in the best interest of her country, but also of those around the world. Russian leader Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are unlikely to share in Clinton’s belief system.
In other areas, Clinton’s pragmatism is one of her strong features. She senses what can bring most benefit and advancement to the goal. This is an important quality for a modern politician in a time when dogmatic ideology is playing a lesser role. For foreign policy success, a pragmatic orientation must override ideological orientation. Clinton’s beliefs, in some particularly significant situations, can be outweighed when making hefty foreign policy decisions.
Vladimir Putin has a strong pragmatism also. This quality is evident in most of his decisions. He always oriented to winning and to protecting Russian interests. He is not an ideologist in the traditional meaning though often his behavior is misunderstood as an attempt to restore the Soviet Union. The USSR is not his model for Russia. The Russian Empire appeals more to Putin.
Current conflict with the West is beneficial to Putin though it has many drawbacks and thus he is not willing to intensify it. Bargaining with Western leaders is a more interesting and lucrative game for him and, from this point of view, his tough foreign policy is a strategy in winning this game. Under certain circumstances, Clinton and Putin may interact well if they find it beneficial for their countries and their own leadership.
Hillary prepares thoroughly to make important political decisions. “She tries to uncover whatever she can, whatever facts are available, whatever details, she likes to involve a lot of other people in providing feedback and ideas and research.” She is highly organized, constantly fact-checking, accurately scrutinizing the situation.
It is known that Hillary helped Bill Clinton, during his presidency, to deal with the details, the fine points of which he was drowning in, when he was floundering in the process of decision-making. Bruce Reed, adviser to the Bill Clinton White House, described Hillary’s role: “She gave us clear marching orders about the issues she wanted us to address and the broad range of opinions she wanted us to solicit. We presented her with detailed options She sent us back to find out more detail, and then she made up her mind. It was exactly the way it’s supposed to work. ” Hillary can highlight important details among the items that relate to the problem and focus on the essence.
Being able to think strategically, she does not neglect the tactical issues. For her, it is important to assess the resources required for the execution of the decision, to monitor both process and people.
She is ready to take risks but is not reckless. Hillary is well aware that it is impossible to calculate all the risks and, in her own words, «we either overstate it or understate it.” She understands risk is best taken when it is most accurately estimated.
She pays particular attention to forecasting events, especially international crises and military conflicts. Here too she believes that the situation is often beyond the scope of the original forecasts, because it can be complicated by many factors, including the human. The development of a military conflict is exacerbated not only by the actions of the parties but also by information processes that often lead to bad decisions. Hillary understands, in the words of Carl von Clausewitz, that “It’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war”. Hillary herself said that in the decision-making process she could alter her original position under the direction of the facts, that she is not afraid to change her mind. “I might go into a process thinking this is what we must do and come out on the other side.”
However, having decided, Hillary is not tormented by doubts. Doug Sosnik, political director in the Bill Clinton White House, characterizes Hillary Clinton as “methodical” in her decision-making and not the type to reverse herself or to agonize about it later. “She does not revisit it nine times”. For her, it is important to make decisions consistent with her values and beliefs.
Putin’s style of decision-making is characterized by cold logic and rationalism. He successfully divides personal emotions in the most part from his decisions. Putin has speedy thinking and can rapidly respond to new situations. But when he needs to make important foreign policy decisions, he evaluates meticulously all aspects of the situation, resources and consequences, especially for the internal and external processes concerning Russia.
Sometimes Putin can be nimble in his perception and interpretation of reality, sometimes he allows Soviet stereotypes to influence his decision-making. Enemy image is an important aspect of his mental model of the world. Sometimes rigid cognitive constructions produce invalid pictures. Putin sees all protests in Russia and anti-Russian feelings in former Soviet republics as stimulated and encouraged by the U.S. State Department. According to his mental model, many of these processes were initiated by Clinton herself when she was Secretary of the State. Her meeting with those who would become the protesters of December 2011, after the previous Russian parliamentary elections, was unconscionable in Putin’s view. This perceived interference in domestic affairs may justify a return in kind. There is speculation, unsubstantiated to date, that there is an international political actor in the leaks of the current domestic American presidential campaign. If the leaks of the current domestic American presidential campaign are linked to Russian hacking, these might be motivated by revenge for Hillary’s support of protests against Putin in 2011.
Putin tries to get all possible information available for his decision-making. He talks personally with the heads of government departments, studies documents deeply, and gathers it all much for complex consideration. Putin has an extraordinary memory and information processing speed. He can read and analyze volumes of documents rapidly. He masters details and numbers with ease. His former KGB boss mentions Putin’s intense focus, “If he undertook to develop the operation, he thought out the smallest details of it.”
Being flexible in his decision-making, Putin can take a risk, if he understands its benefits. Of course, he counts this risk carefully and always develops plan B. Putin says, that in critical and tough situations, he is too calm and secure. “When I studied at the intelligence school, noted in my record was the negative characteristic of “low feeling of danger” and this shortcoming was regarded as very serious”. In some situations, Putin demonstrates caution and prudence in the development of his important decisions. He can prepare them slowly, checking and rechecking alternative scenarios. Often these decisions are unexpected by analysts and foreign leaders.
Putin rarely revises or revisits his decisions. He could do it only when a new situation requires a new approach for gaining benefits. He uses the current tension between the U.S. and Turkey masterfully, despite his negative feelings toward Erdogan. Formally Turkish leader has apologized for killing the Russian fighter but vindictive Putin will never forgive it.
Putin’s circle of advisors is small and he rarely consults people with opposing views. His circle may be reluctant to even play the devil’s advocate and prepare counter-arguments.
Unlike Clinton who prefers strategic decisions, Putin prefers tactical decisions in reaction to steps by foreign leaders. He is an outstanding tactician, creatively adapting as tools the errors of other players. All their weak actions become his strengths. He perceives the international arena as a permanently changing stage, where the setting tomorrow could be absolutely different from today. That is why Putin thinks it is foolish to develop long-term strategies and why it is more important to respond in the short-term, immediately, to these changes and to seize all opportunities.
Putin’s Crimean decision was a reaction to the collapse of the Yanukovich regime in Ukraine and it was irresistible, personally impossible, for him to lose this opportunity. This decision helped him complete important tasks: to conserve Sevastopol as a Russian naval port, to return Crimea to Russia – an archetypical dream of the four past Russian generations, and to demonstrate his force, in the zone of Russian national interests, to the West.
Putin’s Syrian decision was more strategic than tactical. He supports Russia’s long-term ally in the Middle East – Bashar al-Assad, he participates in the process of conflict resolution, and he builds a second regional military base. Also, it is important to Putin that he presents himself in the role of a fighter against ISIS. Thus he competes with America on this stage, portraying himself as a smart, savvy, and sophisticated player in the Middle East.
Putin’s Crimean and Syrian decisions and his support of Donbass and Lugansk separatists were all intended to remind to Western leaders of the red line in the zone of Russian geo-strategic interests. Do not cross it or him.
This analysis shows how the many psychological traits Clinton and Putin have in common has and may complicate relationships between them, and between the United States and Russia. It is possible that the pragmatism peculiar to them will make them understand that the direct conflict is dangerous. Clinton outlined the contours of her conduct as commander in chief clearly: “Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power. That’s the kind of Commander-in-Chief I pledge to be.” Putin could say the same about himself. Today, Syria is sensitive territory for both leaders. It could be a sanctuary for conflict resolution where both Presidents demonstrate their diplomatic skills or it could be a battlefield for Russia and America where both Commanders-in-Chief demonstrate their military leadership. The global population must trust neither Clinton nor Putin wish to go down in modern history as the leaders who started World War III.