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Mr. Putin seems like the product of a culture steeped in history, including those frequent occasions when the perception of weakness invariably preceded attacks. He is less the new Soviet imperialist ideologue and more the latest throwback to the days of Imperial Russia.

He reminds me as well of the general who commanded that Russian airborne unit. Refilling our glasses with Stolichnaya, he toasted his troops.

“Comrade Colonel, always remember that the Russian soldier, whatever he is asked and wherever he is sent, will always do his duty.” We clinked our glasses together as I responded, “And, Comrade General, may he always do it close to home.”

Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel, is a military analyst and author on national security issues.