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Why Putin Plunged Into Syria

By Steven Lee Meyers, New York Times - October 4, 2015

On the night of Dec. 5, 1989, Vladimir V. Putin, then a lieutenant colonel in the K.G.B., watched with alarm as thousands of East Germans in Dresden swarmed the riverside compound of the dreaded secret police, the Stasi. The Berlin Wall had been breached the month before, and the Communist government that had ruled East Germany since the end of World War II gasped its last breaths as protesters took to the streets across the country. The young officer and future Russian president, just 37 at the time, could only stand by helplessly at the K.G.B.’s Dresden outpost a few hundred feet away. The takeover of the Stasi headquarters was relatively peaceful, but in Mr. Putin’s mind the crowd was frenzied, deranged and dangerous, and the experience that night haunted him like nothing else in his mostly undistinguished career as an intelligence officer. “I felt it like a fault of my own,” he told one of his oldest friends, Sergei Roldugin. East Germany soon ceased to exist, as did the Soviet Union following the abortive putsch in August 1991, suffering from an affliction that Mr. Putin described as “a paralysis of power.”

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