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Trump’s Putin Lust & the Final Frontier of Democracy

Former President Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Former President Trump and Vladimir Putin. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP
Julia Ioffe
September 20, 2022

When I first moved to Moscow in September 2009, I brought with me a red paperback copy of Kremlin Rising. It had been published in 2005, the year its married co-authors, Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, left their posts as the Washington Post’s Moscow correspondents. The book carefully and powerfully chronicled how a relatively unknown KGB officer named Vladimir Putin got himself appointed president and went about systematically dismantling a fledgling Russian democracy. 

When they were reporting from Moscow, much of the West still didn’t believe them. Articles in serious journals like Foreign Affairs praised Putin’s arrival, believing that he would clean up corruption and get the powerful oligarchs under control. When Putin said that he would institute a “dictatorship of the law” on the wild, wild West that was Russia after the Soviet collapse, many in the West cheered. Here was the strong hand that Russia needed, they believed, to bring the rule of law to a lawless place.