How Judo and KGB tactics inform Putin’s diplomatic strategy


Russian President Vladimir Putin prompted a sideline conversation at the G-20 summit this week when he approached President Obama to talk mostly about Syria, a senior administration official said.

Fiona Hill, author of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin was not surprised by Putin’s actions and said, “He likes to be able to – basically to think on his feet, talk on his feet, make remarks off the cuff.”

On Weekends with Alex Witt, Hill explained that Putin now has the upper hand on the crisis in Syria given his steadfast stance against military intervention in Syria. “Certainly, the week’s events with all of the decisions to put the issue before Congress, with the U.K. Parliament voting against U.K. participation, military action and the French saying they’re not going to do anything without the U.N., Putin certainly finds himself once more at an advantage, something that he wasn’t really intending at all or anticipating,” she said.

Hill contextualized Putin’s leadership style with his past as a practitioner of judo and operative in the KGB. “He likes to surprise his interlocutors in the political field,” she said. “And that’s what he really has tried to transform onto the political stage, this same kind of skill set internationally, to be able to take advantage of the mistakes of other world leaders. And that’s what he’s really doing in this case on Syria.”