The KGB agent turned warlord president has shaped Russia with resentment and force. As Donald Trump threatens to abandon NATO allies if he returns to the White House, Putin’s poised to take advantage.
The summer evening at a beachside nightclub in the Black Sea resort of Sochi resembled a modern-day version of a gladiator fight in imperial Rome. Russian fighters pummeled a “world” team in a mixed martial arts contest. Scantily dressed women waved Russian flags and the crowd roared as the home squad racked up victories. The highlight was the knockout of a 44-year-old American fighter.
It was August 2013 and sitting in a front-row seat in a white dress shirt and flanked by security guards and political acolytes was Vladimir Putin. Six months later, Russia’s president set his country on its path to war by seizing Crimea from Ukraine, and ultimately a full-scale invasion entering its third year next week.