In the past couple of weeks we have seen Russia takeover the Crimea and threaten the Ukraine both of which were once part of the Soviet Bloc in the old USSR. The man behind these actions ruling Russia is not a man to be taken lightly nor is he a man to be underestimated. Vladimir Putin is a man to be reckoned with in many aspects. But who is Vladimir Putin?
He was born in 1952 on October 7 in Leningrad which is today St Petersburg, Russia. He describes himself as having come from an “ordinary family.” Putin says he has “lived as an average, normal person” and that he still maintains that connection. His mother was Maria Shelomova who did not approve of Putin’s choice to learn judo. She often grumbled at him every time he’d go to his judo practice sessions until his coach visited his home and told his parents about what Putin did and about his accomplishments in judo. His mother’s attitude towards Putin’s passion for judo changed that day. Putin’s father was Vladimir Putin, Sr. He was a WW2 veteran and in the 1950s he worked as a security guard and, later, as a foreman at a carriage works.
In school Putin had a reputation for being a troublemaker, not a pioneer. He attended a high school that was a chemistry focused magnet school and graduated in 1970. He had a tendency to always be late for his first class. His teachers recall how they could feel his potential, his energy, and his character. He had a great interest in language which he picked up easily. His teachers say that he had a very good memory and an agile mind. One of his teachers named Vera Gurevich says she always thought “something good” would come of Putin so she decided to give him more attention and distract him from the “boys n the streets.”
In the 6th grade Putin radically changed his attitude towards his studies. Putin says that at that time “other priorities were emerging” and that he was beginning to assert himself through sports in order to achieve something. At the same time he began to set new goals for himself. It was at this time, in the 6th grade, that Vladimir Putin decided he needed to achieve something in his life so he began to study harder and get better grades. He joined the Young Pioneers and immediately became the leader of a Pioneer detachment in his class. Although he was now “street smart” Putin realized this was not enough so he immersed himself even more in sports but that too was not enough to satisfy his young curiosity and aspirations. More and more he realized that he needed to study more and learn everything he could learn.
In 1970 Putin began attending Leningrad State University and KGB school. He became a law student earning his law degree in 1975. During the 1970s and early 1980s Putin studied at the KGB School No. 1 in Moscow. Putin says, “Even before I finished high school, I wanted to work in intelligence.” He also wanted to be a sailor and a pilot but his desire to work in the KGB won over those aspirations. When he first decided he wanted to work in the KGB he was told that he’d have to either serve in the Army or get a college degree in law. He chose college.
As he was attending college he began to develop new goals and new values. He began focusing on his studies and sports became secondary to him at that time. However, he continued to be active in sports and participated in nation-wide competitions “almost out of habit,” he says. After graduating from law school Putin was assigned to work in various state security agencies. He first worked in the Directorate Secreetariat and then in the KGB’s counterintelligence division. After about 6 month he was sent to the operations personnel retraining course. While he was working in counterintelligence he drew the attention of foreign intelligence officers in the KGB so he was sent to Moscow for special training for one year. He returned to Leningrad and began working in the First Main Directorate of the KGB which was the intelligence service. Later he would return to Moscow for further training at the Andropov Red Banner Institute where he was trained for a trip to Germany.
After completing his studies at the institute he was sent to Germany where he worked in intelligence there for the KGB until 1990. He married before leaving to Lyudmila Shkrebneva who was a flight attendant for a Russian airline. They were married in July of 1983. The couple had two daughters named Maria and Katerina. He wife says of him, “Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is and he’s always spoiled them while I was the one who had to discipline them.”
In Soviet bloc East Germany, Putin worked in the KGB office in Dresden where he was soon promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and given the position of Senior Assistant to the head of the department. In 1989 he was awarded the bronze medal for “Faithful Service to the National People’s Army.”
When he returned to Leningrad, Putin was appointed Assistant to the Rector of Leningrad State University in charge of international relations. It was there that he completed his doctorate thesis and received his Ph.D. in economics. He soon also became an adviser to the Chairman of the Leningrad City Council and became Chairman of the Committee for International Relations for the city. He resigned from the KGB at this time choosing instead to serve in Leningrad’s city government. In 1996 he and his family moved to Moscow which was to mark the beginning of his political career.
In Moscow, Putin was appointed to the post of Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Directorate. He rose quickly in the ranks and was soon named as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Chief of the Main Control Directorate. In May of 1998 he was named First Deputy Chief of Staff in the presidential office and in July of that year he was named Director of the Federal Security Service. Later he also held the office of Secretary of the Security Council for the Russian Federation.
In August of 1999 Vladimir Putin was appointed as Prime Minister of the Russian government by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin felt Putin would be a Prime Minister “with prospects.” In 2000 Yeltsin proposed to Putin that he become Acting President as Yeltsin had decided to step down from the office. For Putin this was not an easy decision to make as the presidential job was “a rather heavy load to bear.” Putin decided that rejecting Yeltsin’s offer would be “foolish” so he accepted and became the Acting President of the Russian Federation.
Putin has said, “You always need to think about the future, always look ahead.” In March of 2000 he was elected President and was re-elected for a second term in March of 2004. In May of 2008 he was named Prime Minister once again by a presidential executive order. When he was elected president he said that Russia wanted to be free, prosperous, flourishing, strong, and a civilized country. He said also that Russians wanted a country to be proud of and respected internationally. At that time Putin said he would be “guided solely by the interests of the State.” He acknowledged it would not be possible to avoid mistakes but he promised the Russian people to “work openly and honestly.”
Putin says, “I consider it to be my sacred duty to unify the people of Russia, to rally citizens around clear aims and tasks, and to remember every day and every minute that we have one Motherland, one people and one future.” When he was elected President for a second term he told the Federal Assembly that he wanted a high living standard for Russians and a “mature democracy.” He also said he wanted to “strengthen Russia’s place in the world.”
In 2010 Putin stated that people were the focus of his attention and he said that officials “must draw their support solely from the Russian people.” He said, further, that if that support was not there then authorities “have no place in power.” In 2010 Putin personal control over reconstruction of homes and giving compensation to victims of wildfires. Round-the-clock monitoring was set up at sites where new housing was being built for the wildfire victims. Putin had video cameras installed on all streets operating 24 hours per day. He followed the monitors from his home and on government websites. He gave $33K (1 million Rubles) to the families of those killed in the fires and he also gave family members 100K Rubles each. Everyone who had lost their home was given a new home or apartment or, if the preferred, monetary compensation. Over 2000 families were helped by Putin at this time.
Putin has said, “If I do something, I try to see it through to its completion, or at least try to ensure that it brings maximum result.” That may be very applicable to the current situation involving Russia, the Ukraine, the Crimea, Europe, and the United States as tensions mount in the Ukraine Crisis. Unlike some on the world stage today Putin is determined and focused and he tends not to leave any task incomplete.
Putin is seen as an active supporter in developing agriculture in Russian. He has said, Step by step we are becoming full-fledged masters of our own food and agricultural markets.” Putin wants Russia to be self-reliant and self sufficient. He is also viewed as a prime supporter of and by the Russian military. He has given soldiers and veterans substantial pay and pension raises. He has also increased the pay of teachers.
Putin is a prime supporter in protecting endangered animal species such as the snow leopard and polar bear. He enjoys fishing and horseback riding. He also enjoys whitewater rafting and is still active in Judo today. He is a man with many interests and of many aspects. He is a man who is focused and wants the best for his people. He is not a man who gives up easily. He is a man who is focused and determined. But he is also a man who is very calculating and one never knows quite how to “read” him. Putin often shows his “poker face” which is what he’s doing today in the midst of the Ukraine Crisis and Western analysts are stupefied as to just what his intentions truly are. Perhaps his intentions are found in one statement that he’s made more than once. That is, Putin has said that the greatest mistake of the century was the demise of the Soviet Union. Does he see himself as the man to resurrect the old USSR? He may well be that man.
One thing is certain when it comes to Vladimir Putin. He is strong and focused in mind and his determination. He is a man to be taken seriously and not to be underestimated. As a potential enemy he is most certainly a man to be reckoned with. He seems to be a man who operates not on emotions or false hopes born in ivory towers but a man who operates in reality and thought with foresight. As an economist he knows well how he can truly hurt the US and the West. Undoubtedly, he knows that should Russia dump the US dollar and sell off US debt it would have major implications for the economy of the US like never seen before. Will he do that? Or will he consider the effects of doing such on the American people? Time will tell but for now the West and the US must handle this man Vladimir Putin very carefully because if we take him too lightly or not seriously enough it may well be to our own demise.
America needs strong leaders. Having the strongman Putin in Russia and having the weak leaders in America we have today is frightening. This is not a time for weakness! Putin, I believe, has sat and figured out President Barack Obama very carefully and I’m sure he knows just what the US can do. But, I’m also sure he knows what the Obama Administration will NOT do. Putin is making his moves now and they are not haphazard or “off the cuff.” Putin’s moves we see today are very well calculated and thought out and that may prove to be the greatest danger to the US and Europe in the end.
To view the personal website of Vladimir Putin and learn more about him go to: