Vladimir Putin is a land grabbing dictator whose ultimate goal is apparently to take over a good portion of Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, his tactics, however malevolent, merit study. There is a lot that lawyers can learn from the dastardly dictator.
- Know your Enemy.
Putin made a calculated gamble that his adversaries would not confront him when he decided to annex Crimea. Putin determined that the United States was spread too thin in Afghanistan and elsewhere to be able to successfully challenge him militarily. Putin also correctly determined that the American people had no further appetite for war after exhausting themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. This made it easy for Putin to simply step into Crimea without being confronted.
In litigation and in business, it is also important to assess your adversary. Is your adversary spending a lot of money on litigation ? Does your opponent have the money necessary to fund opposition if your client decides to sue ? Is your client’s potential adversary war weary ? Does your adversary have a reputation in the community as a lover or a fighter? These are all things to consider before you file suit. A calculated analysis of these factors may help put your client in a position to invade and conquer, just like Putin.
- Have a long-term game plan.
Vladimir Putin has a long-term game plan. He wants to take over Eastern Europe and put it back under Soviet influence. He knows it will take time, and will be costly, but he is prepared to stick it out. He does not seem to care about being evicted from the G8 (now the G7). Similarly, in litigation, it is often necessary to assess your position one stage of the time. It is often difficult to see the end game. Instead, it is often useful to assess your position in terms of limited battles, occurring over an extended period of time, with the ultimate objective to conquer your opponent. Having a game plan will assist you in that effort.
3. Enjoy small victories.
Victories, however small, can dispirit your opponent. A small victory at a discovery hearing can, under certain circumstances, discourage your adversary. This may work particularly well with an adversary who may not be in it for the “long haul”. Thus, enjoy your victories, however small, and count them regularly as a harbinger of things to come.
4. Use Time Worn tactics.
Many tactics in war, geopolitics and in litigation have been used for centuries. For example, you may recall that Putin announced that he was taking back Crimea in order to “protect” the local Russian population. As Hillary Clinton adeptly pointed out, Adolf Hitler said the same thing about protecting the German population before he invaded Austria. Surprisingly, there are apparently people who actually bought this argument both times. It worked once, why not use it again?
The competent lawyer will look back at his repertoire for arguments that can be used over and over again successfully.
5. Bury them in Paper.
Putin has millions of troops that he can round up on a moment’s notice. He has 20,000 of them on the Ukrainian border right now. The folks in Ukraine, Crimea and the United States obviously know this. The mere threat of a mass invasion is often enough to convince the other party to raise the white flag. The appearance you create regarding your ability to wage war is often as important as your ability to actually do it.
6. Pound your chest.
When you win, make sure the other side, and their counsel, know about it. It is okay to brag a little. Ask Muhammad Ali and see how it worked for him. A little bravado may go a long way in helping you win on a psychological level.
While you may not want to use all of these tactics bear in mind that each of them may have a place in your arsenal. It has been working for Vladimir Putin and it could work for you.