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The Daily Vertical: Putin Without Borders (Transcript)

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

So what exactly did Vladimir Putin mean when he ominously quipped to a 9-year-old boy that Russia's borders don't end anywhere?

Sure it was a joke, but jokes can be revealing -- and this one certainly was.

Because Putin clearly has a problem with borders.

He obviously has a problem with literal borders -- especially Russia's post-Soviet borders, which he is determined to expand. Just ask the Georgians and the Ukrainians.

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But the Kremlin leader also has a problem with metaphorical borders, as well.

He has a problem with any boundaries, rules, or norms limiting Russia's behavior in any way, shape, or form.

He believes he can hack Western institutions with impunity.

He believes he can back xenophobic and extremist forces in Europe with no consequences.

He believes he can use corrupt and murky deals to establish networks of influence abroad.

He believes he can violate the air and sea space of Western countries as he pleases.

And he believes he can invade his neighbors, annex their territory, and kidnap their citizens.

And here's the thing. He's right. He can.

Because Putin's Russia has been doing all these things and getting away with them for years.

And until he is confronted and contained, Putin's little quip that Russia's borders don't end anywhere will continue to ring true.

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