Essay | Putin’s strategy of chaos

In the wake of Yevgeny Prigojine’s failed mutiny in Russia, reading the latest book by essayist and MEP Raphaël Glucksmann is an instructive and captivating exercise.

“The star of Prigozhin will fade one day […] and another ‘hero’ will then take his place at the forefront of the crusade launched against our democracies”, writes the author of The big showdowntest arrived in bookstores before the coup of the big boss of the mercenaries of the Wagner group.

Raphaël Glucksmann is not, however, a diviner.

How, then, had he come to this conclusion about the ex-bandit he dubs the “chaos cook”?

It is that “the subversion organized by the Russian regime is not the business of demonic individuals, but a strategic doctrine, a structural dynamic”, he explains.

The “political-mafia system” led by Vladimir Putin produces monsters in series. He is like a hydra. You cut off one of its heads and, in time, another grows back.

What the author also observes is that war is the “national ideology” of this regime.

Russian politician Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the Duma, said so shortly before the outbreak of the invasion of Ukraine.

Raphaël Glucksmann cites it and, for his part, demonstrates without too much difficulty to what extent this has been verified on multiple occasions since Vladimir Putin has been in power. From the first war in Chechnya to the invasion of Crimea, through the abuses committed in Syria, in particular.

Fact to note: the essayist chairs the Special Commission of the European Parliament on foreign interference. He is therefore well placed to explain in detail how the Russian regime is at permanent war against the principles and interests of the democracies.

Raphaël Glucksmann also offers a convincing explanation for this open war. Putin’s regime is convinced that “the expansion of chaos abroad makes it possible to remedy internal tensions”, as a former Kremlin adviser has already explained.

But denouncing the Russian regime is not the essayist’s only objective. He also seeks to make us understand that the blindness of our democracies in the face of Putin has lasted far too long.

For fear of political and commercial repercussions, of course. But also because several elected officials, in office or having left political life, have done the work of useful idiots. They have worked hand in hand with the Kremlin, including serving on the boards of major Russian companies.

Helpful reminder: Vladimir Putin is not the only autocrat waging war on our democracies.

In the last part of his book, Raphaël Glucksmann devotes several pages to China. He deplores the fact that we have more or less the same softness towards Beijing that we showed towards Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine.

Democracies are generally “despairing of blindness and weakness”, he argues, “until that tipping point when they stand up, mobilize and prove to the world that no system is more solid and fairer than the their “.

This is the recovery we have seen since the war in Ukraine. It remains to be hoped that it will continue.

As the essayist demonstrates, democracies must stop selling their enemies, out of opportunism or naivety, “the rope to hang them”.


War requires the redefinition of the notion of realism and its reappropriation by those whose necks are stiff enough not to spend their lives gazing at their navel or lowering their heads in the face of the enemy. Working towards the total defeat of Putin in Ukraine is realistic. Defending the Uyghurs deported by an authoritarian hyperpower that intends to dominate our economies and world trade is realistic. Breaking with the unregulated globalization that has weakened our nations and strengthened our adversaries is realistic. Implementing the ecology of war is realistic. Accelerating the energy transition is realistic. We have the cards in hand. Will we be able to use them? Will we have the will and the strength to change?

Who is Raphael Glucksmann?

Raphaël Glucksmann is an essayist and MEP (he is one of the politicians who founded the French political party Place Publique in 2018). In the European Parliament, since 2020 he has chaired the Special Committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation.

The Great Showdown — How Putin Wages War on Our Democracies

The Great Showdown — How Putin Wages War on Our Democracies

Allary Editions

186 pages

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