Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
You could fill shelves, bookcases, probably even whole libraries with books that promise to explain Vladimir Putin. Often, these volumes offer grand theories about the Russian president’s behaviour; he’s a KGB placeman bent upon rebuilding the Soviet Union, he’s a kleptocrat amassing the world’s biggest fortune or he’s a nationalist ideologue, driven by mystical ideas about a Eurasian civilisation.
In his book, We Need to Talk About Putin, Mark Galeotti tackles western commentators’ habit of caricaturing Putin, based on “hype and hysteria”. He takes on each of these clichés in turn and portrays the man in the Kremlin as the leader of an ‘adhocracy’, where pragmatism and opportunism are at least as important as ideology and geopolitics.