Is he Russia’s Franklin Roosevelt?

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Call it “Cold War Lite,” said Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an editorial. At the recent NATO security conference in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin effectively announced his nation’s return as a major international player by criticizing the sole superpower. The United States, Putin said, has “overstepped its national borders in every way. In the economy, in politics, and in the humanitarian sphere, it imposes its policies on other states.” The U.S. press squawked that the Russian president was trying to revive the Cold War. But a lot has changed since the days of the Soviet Union. Russia’s elites may thunder against American imperialism, but they send their kids to American universities and take their skiing trips in the Rockies. Putin’s outburst can be read as a bit of “rhetorical theater designed to bolster Russian self-esteem.”

Actually, it would be foolish to downplay Putin’s belligerence, said Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He’s already proven himself to be a very dangerous man. Because we Europeans are addicted to his oil and gas, we’ve given him a pass on crime after crime: from “brutal human rights abuses in Chechnya” to “support for semi-criminal enclaves” in Moldova and Georgia to suppression of the independent press. Under his authoritarian hand, Russia is “an increasingly unsavory, disruptive, and anti-democratic member of the international community.” Putin’s second—and supposedly final—presidential term ends next year. But there’s been growing talk in Russia of amending the constitution to allow him a third term. Before it’s too late, Europe should at least make it clear that such a move would be “utterly unacceptable.”

Why? asked Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda. It was perfectly acceptable for the United States. Americans allowed Franklin Delano Roosevelt a third term and then a fourth, even though no previous president had ever served more than two. Many in Russia see Putin as “the Roosevelt of our time.” Like FDR, Putin led his country out of a catastrophic depression and currency crisis, launched New Deal–style welfare reforms, and strengthened federal control. Over the past two months, Russian TV has aired numerous documentaries and analytical programs comparing Putin to Roosevelt and arguing that troubled waters demand a steady, consistent hand at the helm. “We won’t let him go even if he submits his resignation,” said prominent analyst Gleb Pavlovsky.

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Aleksander Arkhangelsky


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