Fear This Man

From time to time, there’s a must-read article worth posting in its entirety or a majority of it in tact. This is one of those articles.

 

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Caption: Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kadobnov/AFP)

 

Those who underestimate Russia’s Vladimir Putin do so at their peril.

In the West, many see Russian President Vladimir Putin more as a schoolyard bully than a ruthless tyrant. He’s mischievous and unfriendly, but his behavior, we tell ourselves, is the result of insecurity. If we ignore him, he’ll grow out of it. Many are amused by and even admire Putin’s personality and behavior. He is the John Wayne of world politics: decisive, uncompromising and masculine. He is the antithesis of the soft, politically correct Western politician. He’s traditional, conservative and pragmatic in a world growing ever more liberal, secular and dangerously idealistic.

But we must not be deceived by Vladimir Putin.

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‘Once a Spy, Always a Spy’

How Putin’s KGB past shapes his autocratic rule

It was January of 1990, and a middle-aged, overweight Vladimir Putin was depressed.

Working as a paper-pushing KGB intelligence officer in Dresden, Germany, Putin spent most of his time attempting to recruit undercover foreign agents and writing reports. News from back home in the Soviet Union caused great concern.

Mikhail Gorbachev had ascended to the head of the Communist Party and was pushing liberalizing policies, and by 1989 the KGB leadership had begun to back some of his reforms. Hundreds of thousands protested in the streets of Communist East Germany for reunification—culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.

On January 15, 1990, protesters stormed the Stasi state security building where Putin worked in Dresden. Putin called for military assistance, but it only arrived hours later after approval from Moscow. Moscow had kept him waiting. Continue reading