Could the advice given in The Prince by Machiavelli be practical to leaders nearly five hundred years later? One of the most notable current European leaders is President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin’s use of Machiavelli’s principles has brought him immense success as a Russian politician concluding that Machiavelli’s advice to leaders applies considerably even in present time. Putin displays numerous characteristics of a Machiavellian ruler including his affirmative character and personality, effective use of military and law enforcement, and respect from the citizens of Russia. The title of president gives Putin a high sense of duty motivating actions which are executed for the explicit purpose of benefitting the nation as a whole, one of many personal characteristics Machiavelli finds effective. Putin’s character and personality are definitely not those of a dictator. But he is a perfectionist and a controller. “Men in general judge more by the sense of sight than by the sense of touch, because everyone can see but few can test by feeling.” One of Putin’s well-known attributes is his stand- out masculinity. Putin often displays a very tough guy image to the media encouraging an active Russian lifestyle. Putin also holds a 6th degree in Judo and Kyokushin kaikan karate while also holding “master of sports” in Russian Sambo.
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” Machiavelli makes it known to show your subjects your virtues while displaying unpopular characteristics within privacy. Putin is also known for his wariness and suspects everyone’s motives. “Men are so happily absorbed in their own affairs and indulge in such self-deception that it is difficult for them not to fall victim to this plague; and some efforts to protect oneself from flatterers involve the risk of becoming despised.” Machiavelli’s advice applies even today that advice should be constantly probed and only taken when requested. This constant suspicion can deter self-interested individuals from advising on their own behalf and advise free of egocentric desire. Machiavelli advises in The Prince that effective military capability is a key to being an efficient leader which Putin evidently displayed through leading the currently ranked second strongest military power of the world. Putin has worked hard to restore pride in the Cold War-era superpower’s military since his first election in 2000.
Russia also holds the largest amount of nuclear warheads in the world. “A prince must not have any other object nor any other thought… but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only art befitting one who commands.” Putin himself was also a soldier in his earlier years. It is mandatory for all male citizens aged eighteen to twenty-seven to be drafted for a year of service in Armed Forces. Putin joined the KGB in 1975 upon graduation, and underwent a year’s training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. Among his duties was the monitoring of foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. “One who can command and is a man of courage and does not get frightened in adversity, and does not neglect other preparations, and one who by his own valor and measures animates the mass of the people, he will not find himself deceived by them, and he will find that he has laid his foundations well.” This type of experience gives Putin the soldier’s point of view when making decisions regarding Russian military.
One of Machiavelli’s points of advice in The Prince is the military’s ability to conquer new kingdoms. It is arguable that this advice is not applicable today but in some cases is very appropriate. Putin has sought to increase Russian military and economic presence in the Arctic. The Arctic area is one of difficult inhabitance and unexplored terrain (similar to early ages, new kingdoms and territory). In August 2007, a Russian expedition named Arktika 2007, led by Artur Chilingarov, planted a Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole. What this means in terms of Machiavelli’s advice is that Putin is extended Russia’s influence through the presence of its military in distant areas. “The chief foundations of all states, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and good arms.” Putin’s country also contains one of the most disciplined penitentiary institutions in the world, the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). “Men who are well disciplined will always be as cautious of violating the laws when they have arms in their hands as when they have not.” Machiavelli notes that a strong military presence encourages less crime. In Putin’s case, his prison standards are what deter from misbehaving within Russian prison. Some of Russia’s most notorious prisons are Black Dolphin, Vladimir Central, and Prison Camp Seventeen.
Vladimir Putin is loved to a great extent by his people which Machiavelli believes is key to having support in decision making. “Therefore the best fortress is to be found in the love of the people, for although you may have fortresses they will not save you if you are hated by the people.” Putin has received numerous awards through his outstanding leadership. Some of these include Time Magazine’s person of the year and Time’s top one hundred most influential people in the world. Putin’s current approval rating is approximately sixty-seven percent with an average of sixty-five percent throughout his three presidential terms. In 2007, Putin had the highest approval rating of any leader in the world. “From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved.” Machiavelli makes a point that a desirable characteristic of a leader is to be both feared and loved by his subjects. Putin’s military capability instills the fear that discourages actions such as revolts, rebellions, or uprisings. As said earlier, the citizens of Russia respect Putin’s laws for the desire of avoiding the harsh conditions of Russian penitentiaries.
Russia also recognizes Putin’s outstanding education. Putin completed his PhD from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law. Although Machiavelli’s advice primarily pertains to the education of warfare, he does note that education within itself is a priority to be held by leaders. “As to exercise the mind, the prince ought to read history and study the actions of eminent men.” Putin can also be found all over Russian (and international) media. Putinisms are catch-phrases of significance used by the president which have been identified by the media in many of his speeches and encounters (“To bump off in a toilet.” ”Ears of a dead ass”). Putin’s name and image are widely used in advertisement and product branding. Among the Putin-branded products are Putinka vodka, the PuTin brand of canned food, the Gorbusha Putina caviar, and a collection of T-shirts with his image. Putin’s name can also be found in many aspects of pop culture.
Putin has been depicted in numerous movies and named after various songs. Putin even is depicted as a superhero in his own comic series called Superputin. A successful Machiavellian leader consists of five crucial characteristics and traits. These traits are the deciding factor in whether or not the leader will be successful. These necessary characteristics include being feared or loved but not hated, having the people’s support, convincingly displaying virtues, using one’s own arms, and intelligence. Vladimir Putin consistently demonstrates the qualities and in return has become a very notable and successful leader. This proves that Machiavelli’s advice applies to leaders today and most like throughout the future as well.