(Washington Post) (Co-authored by Samuel Greene and Graeme Robertson) Russian President Vladimir Putin often seems like a tyrannical Svengali. “Putin’s power as Russia’s leader is based in fear, mystery, and propaganda,” wrote the organizers of PutinCon, a conference for opponents of the president held in New York in 2018, adding, “Putin has wielded violence as the key tool in shaping a system that gives him unrivaled power and wealth, both within Russia and worldwide.” He draws on a centuries-old secret-police culture to “keep citizens in check and destabilize foreign adversaries,” warns ex-CIA operative John Sipher. He’s a “modern day Pablo Escobar,” claims the investor Bill Browder, comparing Putin to the murderous Colombian drug lord.
The notion that Putin’s power is largely, even exclusively attributable to oppression and violence — and heavy-handed propaganda that renders people unable to think for themselves — is understandable. [...]
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