Mystification and Demystification of Vladimir Putin’s Russia - Summary of the conference


The conference was opened by the speeches of Thomas Whitehead (Embassy of the United Kingdom to Budapest) and Peter Krekó (Political Capital). In his opening remarks, Thomas Whitehead said that the Embassy of the United Kingdom was pleased to support this project, and he briefly described the actual relationship between the UK and Russia. As he said it is „not the one how the UK wants it to be, but we continue to hold out hope that one day we will enjoy a strong partnership with the government of this great country”. After the welcoming remarks of Mr. Whitehead, Peter Krekó, the director of Political Capital introduced the results of the research „Mystification and Demystification of Vladimir Putin’s Russia”.

The results show us that 68% of Hungarians overestimated Russia’s relative military expenditure. More than 50% thought that Russia is among our six most important export partners, although it is, in fact, the 17th most important. There is also a tendency to highly overestimate the Russian population and underestimate the number of American and Chinese people. The main conclusion is that the vast majority of Hungarians tend to overestimate Russia’s military potential, its economic power and its population – in these fields, there is a huge gap between perception and reality. Peter Krekó thinks that Russia can successfully paint a stronger image of itself than it really is.

The second panel was a „reality check” on Russia’s power potential with the participation of James Sherr (Estonian Foreign Policy Institute/Chatham House), András Deák (HAS Institute of World Economics), Annamária Kiss (CEU Center for European Neighborhood Studies), and András Rácz (Political Capital). 

James Sherr said that Russia understands perfectly well that they cannot win a long war against NATO because they have not reached the necessary level in terms of military, economic power and the technological development. Consequently, Russia aims at confronting NATO in a short war should the necessary circumstances arise, fragmenting the allies very early and bringing the alliance to the negotiating table very swiftly on Russia’s terms. Our challenge is to persuade the Russians that there is no such thing as a short war against NATO.

Annamária Kiss pointed out that around 4,000 Russians left to fight for ISIS, they are the so-called foreign fighters. Only 600 of the foreign fighters died and only 11 percent of those who remained alive came back to Russia. These foreign fighters are a long-term threat to Russia. She also referred to the crime statistics of Russia, although – according to the Russian national statistics – in 2018 the overall situation got better in most segments.

András Deák talked about Russia’s economic situation. Why is it justified to see Russia bigger than it globally is? - this question was raised by Mr Deák. In his view this is a simple argument: we are very close to Russia and we cannot ignore the fact that the closer something is the bigger it looks. Furthermore, Mr Deák checked what Russia means for the biggest Hungarian companies. He told some interesting facts about the relationship of the three biggest Hungarian companies (MOL, OTP and Richter Gedeon) and Russia. For example, 25% of Richter Gedeon’s revenue came from Russia in 2017.

As we can see in the results of the research, there is a serious tendency among Hungarian people to overestimate Russia in the most important fields (military, economic power and population), and the experts agreed that Vladimir Putin’s Russia needs to be demistified.

The summary was compiled by Political Capital's intern Márk Hörömpöli.


You can watch the full conference here.

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