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Sat Mar 7, 2020, 05:30 PM

WaPo: Vladimir Putin's virus How the Russian president has infected our national trust

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/02/did-vladimir-putin-turn-america-itself/

Such a good analysis. Hope many of you can read it.

The president of the United States fires his director of national intelligence after aides brief a congressional committee on new Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 election. His acting replacement is a man whose main qualification appears to be his skepticism that Russia is meddling in our politics at all. Meanwhile, intelligence officials tell Sen. Bernie Sanders, the leading candidate to unseat the president, that Russian bots have infiltrated his online army to sow discord in the Democratic Party. They say the goal is to help Sanders, but Sanders thinks it is a leak designed to hurt him.

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It’s ironic that Americans of all political stripes have contributed to Putin’s success — by failing to understand what he wants and why he wants it. His goals are not the goals of the former Soviet Union (though he has described the collapse of the U.S.S.R. as a “disaster”). During the Cold War, the Kremlin pursued the spread of communist ideology. Putin is nonideological, according to former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, now of Stanford University and a Post contributing columnist. “I see him as impulsive, emotional, opportunistic. Putin sees himself as the last great nationalist, anti-globalist leader.”

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Putin’s rise through the chaos of the post-Soviet period had left him convinced that Western-style capitalism, unrestrained by a centralized controlling authority, was incompatible with Russian greatness. And to be fair, the United States and its Western allies had not done enough to help the Russians build a market economy. Though Americans helped design the stock exchange and other elements of the post-Soviet economy, the state-owned industries that made up the backbone of the old system were swiftly privatized in a frenzy of corruption and opportunism.

Since then, Putin has transformed the anarchic plunder of the 1990s into a centralized structure of state-approved oligarchs, with himself at the top of the pyramid. Putin is believed to be among the richest people on Earth — impressive for a man who has worked his whole life for the government. His palace on the Black Sea was built on a reported $1 billion budget, and that’s just one of his many palaces and retreats.

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