A simple public choice theory of Russia
This one is crude, but it cannot be dismissed:
Putin doesn’t run a country, he runs a corporation. He is the ugliest mixture of Karl Marx and Adam Smith. He is not interested in restoring the Russian influence, he’s just interested in Gazprom’s and Rosneft’s influence. Actually, Putin is destroying the Russian state. If we look at the functions of the state, they are gradually transferred to the state companies: now the Duma voted that Gazprom and Rosneft can have its own armies. These so-called state companies are run by Putin and his KGB-buddies – him being a sort of "capo di tutti capi". And for those doing business with KGB Inc., I remind them that the KGB shareholders are very active shareholders.
That’s Garry Kasparov, here is one commentator summarizing:
In Kasparov’s view, the main goal of Russian foreign policy is to raise the oil price, no matter what – that’s why the tensions in the Middle East are so important to Putin…
We live in a nice world, no? Megan McArdle ponders life or death incentives in the former Soviet Union. Here is the excellent New Yorker article on Kasparov.