Russia should be and will be a country with a developed civil society and stable democracy. Russia will guarantee full human rights, civil liberties and political freedom. Russia should be and will be a country with a competitive market economy, a country where property rights are reliably protected and where economic freedom makes it possible for people to work honestly and to earn without fear or restriction. Russia will be a strong country with modern, wellequipped and mobile armed forces, with an army ready to defend Russia and its allies and the national interests of the country and of its citizens. All this will and should create worthy living conditions for people and will make it possible to be an equal in the society of the most developed states. And people can not only be proud of such a country - they will multiply its wealth, will remember and respect our great history. This is our strategic goal.
(Putin, state-of-the-nation address, 16 May 2003 1)
In his work on political leadership Machiavelli applied the classic distinction between fortuna, or random luck, and virtù, success emanating from the intrinsic qualities of the person. Putin's meteoric rise to become president of Russia was certainly characterised by an awesome degree of luck, but without his extraordinary virtù this luck would have probably availed him nothing. Periods of war and dislocation, moreover, often allow outsiders to come to power, but in Putin's case leadership succession took place in peacetime, although of course in far from settled circumstances. Similarly, the banal adage that a leader was 'the right man at the right time' is in this case not far off the mark, although more often than not it is the wrong person for any time who comes to power. Putin's rise reflected the structural conditions of a society desperate to put an end to utopian experimentation and to overcome the bitter divisions that this experimentation provoked. His own background, as a child of the 1970s, loyal to the old regime yet sceptical about it, deeply patriotic yet having internalised the multiculturalism that the communist regime proclaimed (although did not always practice), and a natural European for whom the question of Russia's civilisational identity was not a problem, meant that he reflected the aspirations of society for resolution and closure. Perhaps above all, it was clear that for Putin power was not an end in itself, to