Vladimir Putin is an extraordinary character. From Harald Malmgren at unherd.com:
When we first met, he already knew the power of terrifying adversaries
In 1999, Vladimir Putin suddenly sprang from bureaucratic obscurity to the office of Prime Minister. When, a few months later, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and Putin was voted in as President, governments around the world were taken by surprise yet again. How could this unknown figure have amassed national voter support with so little media attention?
I had first met Putin seven years before and was not surprised by his rapid domination of the new Russia. We were introduced by Yevgeny Primakov, widely known as “Russia’s Kissinger”, who I had met in Moscow multiple times during the Cold War years when I advised Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Primakov was a no-nonsense thinker and writer. He was also a special emissary for the Kremlin in conducting secret discussions with national leaders around the world.
When Yeltsin tasked his advisor Anatoly Sobchak with identifying and recruiting Russia’s best and brightest, Putin, then a local politician in his hometown of St Petersburg, was top of his list — so Primakov took Putin under his wing to tutor him in global power and security issues. Eventually, Primakov introduced Kissinger to Putin, and they became close. That both Primakov and Kissinger took time to coach Putin on geopolitics and geosecurity was a clear demonstration that they saw in him the characteristics of a powerful leader. It also showed Putin’s capacity for listening to lengthy lessons on geopolitics — as I was soon to learn.