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The Daily Vertical: Putin's Brezhnev Schizophrenia (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

This is Part 4 of a special Daily Vertical series on Vladimir Putin and the ghosts of Kremlins past. (The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.)

Vladimir Putin simultaneously wants to be Leonid Brezhnev and avoid being Leonid Brezhnev.

Like Brezhnev, he wants to be the long-ruling leader of a global superpower that is feared, respected, and treated by the West as an equal.

But he wants to avoid presiding over an ossified and decaying regime.

Like Brezhnev, Putin wants to preside over an era of stability.

But he wants to avoid a new era of stagnation.

Putin may want to party like it's 1977, but he wants to avoid the inevitable hangover.

Putin turned 64 last week, which is the same age Brezhnev was in 1970.

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That was pretty much the peak of Soviet power, influence, and prosperity.

But it was also just before the rot set into the system. It was just before the malaise that ultimately led to the Soviet Union's decline and collapse.

Brezhnev ruled for 18 years, from 1964 until his death in 1982.

Putin will pass that milestone in two years. And in the likely event that he secures another term in 2018, he'll surpass it.

So in one sense, Putin has already become Brezhnev. The question is, which one?

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