This event involved Angus Roxburgh the former BBC Moscow correspondent in conversation with Andrew Castle about his time in Russia and his new book on Putin,
The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia . As Roxburgh discussed his connections with Russia started in studying it at University before becoming a translator and journalist before joining the BBC, seeing Russia go through the fall of the Soviet Union and “Shock Therapy” of the 1990s through to Putins rise and working in a PR company which put him working within the Russian government.
This has given him insight into the Russian and Putin’s mindset. As he explained the attempt alongside democratic reform after the fall of the Soviet Union to “shock” Russia’s economy quickly from centrally directed to free market was a catastrophe for most Russians with long queues for goods and having sell possessions to get basic necessities.
This therefore meant that democracy became associated with the unpopular economic policies of the 1990s. When Putin became President he, at least appeared to save the economy and reassert Russia on the world stage making him relatively popular despite his authoritarian policies. Roxburgh also notes that Western leaders have not understood the Russian mindset.
While Putin has been seen as aggressive, Putin has been wary of what he has seen as Western encroachment. For example Putin has been wary of NATO expansion to Russia’s borders where he feels the West has been claiming that it wants to be friendly but at the same time acting like Russia is an enemy.
However the most salient point made was that even if Russia gets a democratic leader, like Putin, they will not take what Russians deem to be lectures from the West on how to run their own affairs. The event was an intriguing look at the man still in power in the Kremlin.