Vladimir Putin isn't necessarily afraid of Josef Stalin, but he's clearly haunted by him.
He's haunted by him because he knows he can never replicate Stalin's accomplishments.
He's haunted by him because Stalin represents a standard Putin knows he can never live up to.
Stalin resurrected the disintegrated Russian Empire in the form of the Soviet Union -- and expanded it deep into Europe.
He won World War II and restored Russia to the ranks of world powers after decades of stagnation, decline, and chaos.
In Yalta, he secured Moscow a privileged sphere of influence.
And if those things sound like familiar Putin obsessions, it's because they are.
But for Stalin to accomplish all this, and rule unchallenged for more than two decades, he had to become one of the 20th century's most brutal and notorious dictators.
He had to kill millions of people in the Great Terror, he had to initiate a genocidal famine in Ukraine, and he had to deport tens of thousands of Baltic citizens to the gulag.
And while Putin's rule has been autocratic and his foreign policy aggressive, he doesn't appear to be willing to go quite that far to get what he wants.
He knows he has to settle for simulated Stalinism -- and is doomed to be haunted by Stalin's ghost.