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Myth of the new cold war

Russia was not a liberal democracy under Yeltsin, and neither has it reverted to totalitarianism under Putin. But America's long-established religiously inspired concern about "losing" Russia is once more at the centre of debate

By Stephen Kotkin   April 2008

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What is it about Russia that drives the Anglo-American world mad? Soviet communism collapses, the empire is relinquished. Then come the wild hopes and failures of the 1990s—including the 1993 half-coup and the tank assault on Russia’s legislature, the results-adjusted referendum on a new constitution (still in force), the dubious privatisations, the war in Chechnya and the financial default in 1998. But after all that, in December 1999 Boris Yeltsin apologises, steps down early—and names his prime minister and former secret police chief Vladimir Putin as acting president. To widespread consternation, Yeltsin…

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