Is Putin Repeating the Mistakes of Brezhnev?

The Wall Street Journal

What better way to win Russian votes than to threaten the U.S. with nuclear attack? It wasn’t enough for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to ban his only credible opponent from the country’s upcoming election. Nor was he apparently convinced that his ironclad control of Russian TV would deliver a sufficiently resounding victory. In last week’s annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly, Mr. Putin threatened a new arms race, declaring that “efforts to contain Russia have failed” and showing video simulations of “unstoppable” nuclear missiles flying toward the West Coast of the U.S.

Mr. Putin’s nuclear posturing is intended to enliven a dreary, carefully scripted presidential campaign. Most of the candidates are familiar Kremlin stooges, such as far-right hooligan Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has run in all but one of the country’s post-Soviet presidential elections, and communist Pavel Grudinin, who runs a farm named after Lenin.

No prize for guessing who will win.

The Russian constitution says that this next six-year term should be Mr. Putin’s last as president, but he could emulate Chinese President Xi Jinping and change the rules. At 65, he almost certainly has a decade or more of active public life ahead of him. But he’s already beat one record: This year, he overtook Leonid Brezhnev, who held power from 1964 until his death in 1982, as the longest serving Kremlin chief since Joseph Stalin.

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