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The Daily Vertical: Putin Vs. History (Transcript)


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

If there is any silver lining in Russia's recent military adventures and aggressive international posturing, it's this:

Historically, such periods have been followed by retrenchment, rapprochement, introspection, and reform.

When the costs of an expansionist foreign policy become evident, Russia tends to change course.

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The reforms of Alexander II came on the heels of the Russian defeat in the Crimean War.

The revolution of 1905 came in the wake of defeat in the Russo-Japanese War.

And Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika came in the aftermath of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

And believe it or not, there are voices in Moscow who are saying the status quo simply cannot continue.

In an interview with Reuters this week, former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said Russia risks being saddled with a stagnant economy for decades as a result of Western sanctions.

But there are reasons to believe that history will not be repeating itself anytime soon.

Vladimir Putin has staked his legitimacy on restoring Russia's superpower status and appears to believe that abandoning this would be an existential threat to his rule.

This is now the regime's legitimizing myth and it puts Russia on a collision course with the West.

Putin wants detente with the West on his terms alone -- and his terms are unacceptable.

Sooner or later, Kudrin's argument will probably become ascendant and the historical cycle will probably resume.

But it will almost certainly not resume under this regime.

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