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The Daily Vertical: And Then Putin Came For The West (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

First he went after the domestic opposition.

When Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin five years ago, he launched a massive crackdown on dissent, jailing opposition leaders, staging a series of show trials, and cracking down on social media.

He called them fifth columnists and tools of the West.

Outside of Russia, a lot of people didn't notice or didn't care.

A crackdown against the Russian opposition, after all, didn't really affect their lives.

Who are Pussy Riot, the Bolotnaya protesters, and Sergei Udaltsov anyway.

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And then Putin went after Russia's neighbors.

Three years ago, Putin launched his war on Ukraine, forcefully and illegally annexing Crimea and effectively invading the Donbas.

He claimed to be saving Ukraine from a Western-backed coup.

Outside the former Soviet space, many shrugged their shoulders.

After all who ever heard of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Just another conflict in some faraway land.

And now Putin is coming after the West itself.

With a coordinated series of cyberattacks, disinformation and fake-news dumps, electoral interference, and support for xenophobic and antiestablishment forces in Europe and North America, Putin's regime took careful aim at the soft underbelly of Western democratic institutions.

And now, suddenly, he has everybody's attention.

Now, suddenly, we're living in a brave new world.

Now, suddenly, Putin is impossible to ignore.

But this assault on the West did not come out of the blue.

It had been prepared for, and it had been telegraphed, for years.

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