Re­view by James Baxter Gi­ant of the Se­nate

Policy - - In This Issue - by Al Franken

he of­ten does, in the third per­son— ob­served: “Gor­bachev is hard to un­der­stand.” Per­haps, but in Taub­man’s able hands, less so.

Th­ese days, Rus­sia un­der Putin ap­pears in many ways like the Soviet Union of old—ruled by a cold-eyed au­to­crat with lit­tle tol­er­ance for dis­sent. That doesn’t con­cern most Rus­sians, as Putin main­tains his long grip on power and high ap­proval rat­ing in polls. A key dif­fer­ence be­tween the two, Taub­man con­cludes, is that “Gor­bachev weak­ened the state in an at­tempt to strengthen the in­di­vid­ual” whereas Putin strength­ened the Rus­sian state by “cur­tail­ing in­di­vid­ual free­doms.” Per­haps, for the av­er­age reader in the West, it’s not so much Gor­bachev who is hard to un­der­stand as the mind­set of the coun­try he tried so hard to change. An­thony Wil­son-Smith, a for­mer Moscow cor­re­spon­dent of Ma­cLean’s, is pres­i­dent and CEO of His­tor­ica Canada. aw­il­son-smith@his­tor­i­ca­canada.ca

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