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December 20th, 2013
The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Putin Says Rival, a Jailed Tycoon, Could be Freed,” shows the pragmatism and confidence of the Russian president at a time when everything seems to be going his way.
Putin has reasserted Russia on the international scene, helping to broker an accord with Syria and staving off an American strike, as well as bringing the situation in Ukraine under control through a $15 billion loan and a discount on natural gas.
As vast new reserves of oil have been found in Russia, the country has become more self sufficient and is starting to rival the United States as it did during the Cold War. The recent granting of asylum to Edward Snowden is a poke at the United States and a mockery of our lectures to other nations on democracy and free speech.
So Putin now feels confident enough to release political rivals and dissidents including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin’s only real political rival. But more than 1,000 people may be released under a general amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution and as the nation prepares to host the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi on February 7th.
Khodorkovsky still possesses significant wealth overseas and as one of the Russian “oligarchs” from the free for all in the 1990s, he is independent minded and unafraid to take advantage of any loopholes in the system. We will see where all this leads, but it is definitely a bold move by Vladimir Putin.
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