You’re the Puppet
A Russian journalist challenges the standard view of Vladimir Putin as a supervillain
All the Kremlin's Men:
Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin
by Mikhail Zygar
$28 List Price
In the last few years, even as Russia and the West have become bitterly opposed on one issue after another—Snowden, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, the hacking allegations—there has been general agreement between them on at least one thing: the absolute centrality of Vladimir Putin. In Russia, he dominates the political stage and the airwaves, and a decade and a half after he first won the presidency, he still enjoys approval ratings that would be the envy of most elected leaders: After the annexation of Crimea, they spiked to over 80 percent, where they have remained ever since. In the West, he has increasingly been portrayed as the most implacable foe of the US and its allies, a malevolent puppet master pulling the strings in a succession of crises and conflicts across the world. (In February 2014, after Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych unleashed the security forces against protesters on the Maidan, The Economist dubbed the ensuing street battles "Putin's inferno"; this past August, Senator Harry Reid demanded an FBI inquiry into Putin's apparent plan to tamper with the US elections.) For both sides, this one man has become all but inseparable from the policies and practices of the country he leads, receiving credit or blame in quantities usually reserved for minor deities or superheroes. When one of his advisers asserted, in October 2014, that "Russia is Putin. Russia exists only if there is Putin," Western policymakers and mainstream media might have objected to his sycophancy, but not his reasoning. Where Russia is concerned, it seems, all roads lead to Putin.
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