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The Daily Vertical: Putin's Revenge (Transcript)

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

A quarter of a century ago, an empire peacefully dissolved itself.

Today -- sometimes forcefully and sometimes stealthily -- that empire is being carefully and painstakingly reassembled one piece at a time.

Twenty-five years ago, dreams of independence became real -- from Tbilisi to Kyiv to Chisinau.

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Today, that independence never looked so precarious.

A quarter of a century ago, Russia appeared on the road to democracy and pluralism.

Today, it's a revanchist autocracy.

Twenty-five years ago, optimists argued that history was ending and liberalism was triumphant.

Today, history is back -- and back with a vengeance.

A quarter of a century ago, the West was triumphant and confident.

Today, it's enduring its deepest crisis in generations.

On December 7th and 8th, 1991, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus met in a hunting lodge and signed a document formally dissolving the Soviet Union, declaring that it "ceased to exist as an entity of international law and geopolitical reality."

And oh so briefly, for one-sixth of the Earth's land mass, everything seemed possible.

At the time, Vladimir Putin was an obscure and resentful KGB colonel watching his world shatter before his eyes.

And today, he is getting his revenge.

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