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These pressures have not abated; if anything, they have accelerated in recent years. The History When it is snowing, as it was on this spring afternoon, the gray crags of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations blend into the low-slung, steely sky. This is where the Soviet state once minted its diplomats and spies. Here they mastered the nuances of the world before stepping out into it.
Migranyan spent much of the past decade in New York, where he ran the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a Russian think tank reported to have ties to the Russian foreign ministry. Among his old classmates is Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, whom he still counts as a friend.
Putin, still a painfully awkward speaker at the time, was seven years into his now nearly two-decade reign. Eighteen years prior, in , he had been a KGB officer stationed in Dresden, East Germany, shoveling sensitive documents into a furnace as protesters gathered outside and the Berlin Wall crumbled.
Not long after that, the Soviet Union was dead and buried, and the world seemed to have come to a consensus: The Soviet approach to politics—violent, undemocratic—was wrong, even evil. The Western liberal order was a better and more moral form of government.
Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, where he dissented sharply from the post—Cold War ideological order. Bush, hoping to impress on him that they were now allies in the struggle against terrorism. He tried to be helpful in Afghanistan. But in , Bush ignored his objections to the invasion of Iraq, going around the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has veto power.
But to Putin, it was something more: Under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights, Washington had returned to its Cold War—era policy of deposing and installing foreign leaders. Even the open use of military force was now fair game.
In , speaking to the representatives and defenders of the Western order, Putin officially registered his dissent. Nonetheless, Putin has spent the decade since that speech making sure that the United States can never again unilaterally maneuver without encountering friction—and, most important, that it can never, ever depose him.
Russia had been written off! And Putin committed a mortal sin in Munich: He told the truth. The U. American consultants had engineered painful post-Soviet market reforms, enriching themselves all the while, and had helped elect the enfeebled and unpopular Yeltsin to a second term in Some of those same NGOs had ties to the so-called color revolutions, which toppled governments in former Soviet republics and replaced them with democratic regimes friendly to the West.
Through this prism, it is not irrational to believe that the U. He feared the Americans would come for him next.
In , the Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak stepped down following protests the U. Then there was Libya. The first was the nato intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi.
He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. The second moment was in November , when young Ukrainians came out onto the Maidan—Independence Square—in the capital, Kiev, to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych pulling out of an economic agreement with the European Union under pressure from Putin.
The demonstrators stayed all winter, until the police opened fire on them, killing some people.
The next day, February 21, , Yanukovych signed a political-reconciliation plan, brokered by Russia, America, and the EU, but that night he fled the capital. To Putin, it was clear what had happened: America had toppled his closest ally, in a country he regarded as an extension of Russia itself.
The presence of Victoria Nuland, a State Department assistant secretary, handing out snacks on the Maidan during the protests, only cemented his worst fears. But he went on offense after the Maidan.
The gloves were off, in a way. To Putin, Ukraine was such a part of Russia that he took it as an assault on him. Putin and Lavrov were known within the Obama administration for their long tirades, chastising the American president for all the disrespect shown to Russia since —like the time in that Obama listed Russia and Ebola as global threats in the same speech.
It also led inexorably to Russian meddling in the U. The Player For Russia, a country relentlessly focused on its history, was a big year. November marked years since the Bolsheviks, a radical minority faction of socialists, brought guns into a fledgling parliament and wrested Russia onto an equally radical path.
That bloody experiment itself ended in , with the collapse of the Soviet Union; December marked its 25th anniversary. Both anniversaries were largely ignored by the Kremlin-controlled media, because they are uncomfortable for Putin. Bolsheviks were revolutionaries and Putin, a statist to his core, loathes revolutions.
He fears for himself when another collapse comes—because collapse always comes, because it has already come twice in years. He is constantly trying to avoid it.
The exiled oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky has publicly spoken of deposing Putin, and until recently did not eschew violent means. People like Alexey Navalny, the opposition leader, openly talk about putting Putin and his closest associates on trial.
The Russian opposition gleefully waits for Putin to fall, to resign, to die. Every misstep, every dip in oil prices, is to them just another sign of his coming personal apocalypse. The hungry anticipation is mirrored in the West, especially in the United States. Many Russians remember the last one personally. But the number who do is shrinking. One in four Russian men dies before the age of Putin turned 65 in October, and is surrounded by people who are as old as he is, if not older.
This is why Putin insists on having elections, even if the result is always predictable.
They want a democracy. But they have a different sense of it than Americans and Europeans. But in the past year or so, the fray has given him reason to worry. The opposition leader and anti-corruption crusader has captured the imagination of many young Russians, as well as that of Westerners who see him as a potential rival of, or even replacement for, Putin.
Navalny has declared that he is running for president in the upcoming election. Angry-looking young men in track pants and sneakers—the other fists-for-hire preferred by the Kremlin—paced around the students, eyeing them menacingly. Young women in vertiginous heels—plainclothes cops—milled around. Every few minutes, they took out identical camcorders tagged with numbered yellow stickers and filmed the students standing on the steps, zooming in on their faces.
His supporters subsequently posted an image of The Motherland Calls, the giant statue commemorating the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, with its face Photoshopped green, to publicize his rally in Volgograd.
The image touched a nerve in a country where the government fetishizes World War II. Within hours, pro-Kremlin social-media accounts were using the image to fuel local outrage.
Navalny being arrested during a rally in Moscow on March 26, Evgeny Feldman The students standing on the steps of the campaign office found the manufactured outrage funny. They were at an age when most things were funny, even when the state was clearly watching them. These young men would soon graduate into an economy that had only recently started to grow again after a five-year malaise. But the growth is barely perceptible, while prices for basic goods have soared.
They also believed, from watching state TV, that Navalny was an American agent. The young men laughed at this, too. Navalny had begun to build his base about a decade earlier, with a blog on LiveJournal that carefully documented how government officials supposedly carved thick slices off the state budget and stashed the money in Moscow mansions or real estate abroad.
A few years ago, Navalny launched a YouTube channel where he posts slickly produced videos describing alleged government corruption schemes. On another YouTube channel, Navalny Live, he and his team at the Anti-Corruption Foundation host talk shows about politics, the kind of programming that would never be allowed on state-controlled television.
Together, the channels have more than 1. As the students and I stood chatting, a retinue of preschoolers marched past the office with their teachers.
The college students broke into laughter and cheers. It's so ugly that it almost scared her little brother to death. So terrifying that even her friends are totally freaked out by it.
It's the best Halloween mask ever. With yellow-green skin and long animal fangs, the mask terrifies the entire neighborhood. Before long, it has a surprising effect on Carly Beth, too. She tries to take it off. Choose other sales representative. All Rights Reserved. Skip to main content. ListBuilder Search books, manage lists and send your order online.
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