How Putin Built a Ragtag Empire of Tyrants and Failing States

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from TIME Magazine,

Russia has quietly built a network of influence among tyrants and failed states.

Even in the worst of times, Russia had been a reliable friend to the Sudan of Omar al-Bashir. As it turned out, Russia’s enduring friendship was about to pay off. The outlaw President had arrived with an offer: “Sudan,” he told Putin, “can be Russia’s key to Africa.” What he wanted in return was “protection from aggressive U.S. actions” in the region, said al-Bashir. The evidence shows Putin took him up on it.

Sudan is just the start. Over the past few years, the Kremlin has once again been scouring the world in search of influence. In troubled countries overlooked since the Cold War, Russia has been forging new alliances, rekindling old ones and, wherever possible, filling the void left by an inward-looking West.

The Russian campaign reaches from major conflict zones such as Venezuela, Libya and Syria to the more obscure corners of Africa and, as al-Bashir hoped, to Sudan. What comes through is a newfound Russian willingness, even an eagerness, to involve itself in wars and cultivate regimes anywhere Moscow sees a chance to assert itself.

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