President Putin meets with Jair Bolsonaro, 2022.

The Bully in the Bubble

February 04, 2022
Adam E. Casey and Seva Gunitsky
This article was originally published by Foreign Policy, with the subheading: "Putin and the Perils of Information Isolation."

The authors, a postdoctoral fellow at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan and an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, argue that “under Putin, Russia has increasingly become a personalist regime—an authoritarian system in which power is concentrated in a single individual rather than in a ruling party or a military elite.” According to the authors, the leaders of personalist regimes “face fewer checks on their power than do other heads of state. They are harder to punish when their foreign policy decisions fail. And critically, they choose their circle of advisers based on loyalty rather than competence, surrounding themselves by scared and sycophantic underlings who feed them limited, biased, self-censored, and overly optimistic information.” In the context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the authors argue that “the future of Ukraine may hinge on a man ensconced in a bubble that both feeds his aggression and shields him from its consequences.” While the authors note that “intelligence reports suggest Putin has not made up his mind,” but that if he makes a miscalculation and launches a major invasion, it will likely be because of the personalist features of his regime.” 

Read the full article at Foreign Affairs.


Adam E. Casey

Adam E. Casey is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan.


Seva Gunitsky

Seva Gunitsky is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by Palácio do Planalto shared under a Creative Commons license.