Comparing Vladimir Putin to Hitler and Stalin may invoke nostalgia in aging Cold Warriors, argues David Remnick in the New Yorker, but it ignores the realities of contemporary Russia as well as Putin’s actual motives. The Russian leader has been awaiting the chance to vent his resentment of NATO expansion and American arrogance; Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia—a poster child for post-Soviet chaos—provided the opportunity. Putin’s an old KGB man, but he’s a pragmatist, not the mortal enemy some “seem to crave.”
Putin feels no obligation to either “democratic pretensions” or the US leadership. "But Putin also knows that Russia cannot bear the cost of reconstituting empire or the gulag. It depends on the West as a market," Remnick writes. “Putin is not Hitler or Stalin; he is not even Leonid Brezhnev. Putin is a new and subtler game. To deal with him will require statecraft of a kind that has proved well beyond the capacities of our current practitioners."