About a year ago, the Bush administration and the neocon babble-ocracy began touting Vladimir Putin as America's next Man We Love to Hate. This is odd, since by nearly all standards, Mr. Putin is the most successful neocon on the planet. Or perhaps it's jealousy. Since taking power in 2000, Mr. Putin's Russia has dodged chaos, seen its GDP increase six-fold, its poverty fall by half, average monthly real wages rise by 150% and, with the invasion of Georgia, demonstrated to the world that it can no longer be baited, humiliated or ignored without consequences.
In politics, international politics especially, the standard is not perfection, it's the alternative. Putin's no Stalin, either at home or abroad. Nor is he the new tsar. He's a Russian authoritarian, in some ways an autocrat, who is leaving his country better than he found it.