An Aging Vladimir Putin Hopes War Can Make a Sagging Empire Rise Again squib

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There are few things more dangerous than the nostalgia of old men.

We see the consequences of their longing for time gone by wherever we look around the globe today. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro seems to yearn for a country more like that of his youth, when he was a freshly-minted artillery officer and a military junta ruled without the slightest concern for the will of the people. India’s 71-year-old prime minister Narendra Modi spent his youth as a member of a right wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization that drew its inspiration from the Italian Fascist Party and its imprint can be seen clearly as Modi has led the country throughout his tenure toward nationalism and away from democracy. Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party approved a resolution late last year that framed him as one of the country’s era-defining leaders alongside the two dominant leaders of his youth, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. From Erdogan in Turkey to Orban in Hungary to Trump in America, we have seen leaders seeking to turn a celebration of traditional values into a form of political Viagra.

Right now, the greatest danger the world faces from such a leader comes from Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 69-year-old Putin has long been seen as a man so insecure about his fading virility that he has engineered sometimes comical macho displays from ill-considered shots of him riding horseback shirtless through the Russian countryside to hockey games in which his side always wins thanks to a tsunami of goal-scoring by a Gretzky-like Vlad.

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