Russia’s Vladimir Putin—featured prominently in
Ms. Applebaum’s informative and disturbing cover story of last month’s issue of
The Atlantic, as well as in the photo accompanying this post—might not lead
a sprawling international bloc dedicated to one ideology, the way Soviet
dictators for most of the 20th century did.
But he is certainly a charter member of and
inspiration for what Ms. Applebaum calls “Autocracy Inc.” Combining the black
arts of disinformation and dissent-crushing he learned while in the KGB with the
realization that capitalism provides rich new opportunities for corruption that
can sustain him in power, he has pioneered the most disturbing form of top-down
control seen so far in the 21st century.
In judging the value of American politicians and pundits,
it’s not a bad yardstick to see which ones have continued to hail Putin for his
strength (as discussed in Jonathan Chait’s March 2021 piece for New York
Magazine), even as his methods of corruption, harassment and murder have
become all too brazen.