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March 23, 2014 AT 8:46 AM
Just one day after Barack Obama imposed the first round of sanctions on Russia, Vladimir Putin gave a defiant speech at the Russian Duma announcing the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Those of us who have gotten to know Russia over the years weren’t particularly surprised, but it marks the first time that Mr. Putin stated his revisionist version of Russian history in such clear terms. In his view, the West preyed on Russia during its time of weakness. Now, the once great empire is encircled by hostile foreign powers and is threatened by traitorous “fifth columnists” within its borders. He said, “they are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner, because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy.”