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.

Susan and Peter showed the West what Putin was really up to. They were some of the first Western journalists that chronicled for the world the arc of where all of this would lead, of where Putin was inexorably headed. It was a clear-eyed and bracing roadmap of the terrors ahead.

Before long, I ended up writing dispatches from Moscow for Susan, when she was editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy, and she was eager to hear everything about what was happening in Russia whenever I visited Washington. When I moved back, I worked for Susan again, at Politico Magazine. Over those years, Susan became an important ally and mentor in a maddeningly male-dominated industry. (“We’re finally getting a seat at the table,” she once told me, “but they’ll never stop reminding us that it’s still their table.”) Over the last decade, over countless dinners, including with our mutual friends from Moscow, Susan and Peter also became my good and trusted friends.