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tv   CNN Special Report  CNN  March 13, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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more breaking news tonight, a blizzard warning in effect for parts of eight states, a nor'easter expected to drop more than a foot of snow. winter certainly not over yet. time now for the cnn special report, the most powerful man in the world. the following is a cnn special report. ♪ winston churchill famously said of russia, it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. prime minister churchill, meet vladimir putin. he is really very much of a leader. he's been a leader far more than our president's been a leader. >> he was a kgb agent, by
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definition i doesn't have a soul. >> vladimir putin is a thug and killer. >> he's the richest man in the world. hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth. >> what does he want from donald trump? >> putin is going to eat him like a sandwich. >> he'd rather have a puppet for president. >> you're a puppet. >> just how powerful is he? >> putin has an untrammelled authority. >> how do you check that power? >> so powerful he rigged the american election? >> of course putin wanted hillary clinton to lose. he despised hillary clinton. >> who do you like better? [cheers and applause] >> of the world! >> while russia celebrates, americans ask, what does he want? and is he really the most
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powerful man in the world? >> december 5, 1989. it was a cold night in dresden, east germany. and it would change the course of vladimir putin's life. the berlin wall had just fallen. all over east germany, angry crowds roamed the streets, lashing out at symbols of communist rule. that night in dresden, they found a target. the local kgb headquarters. a mob surrounded the building, as the hour grew later, the crowd grew larger.
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inside, peering through the curtains was a young kgb lieutenant colonel named vladimir putin. >> he was terrified. they were going to storm the building. >> putin was a junior officer, but the boss was away. he was in charge. >> early morning, he called for instructions. >> desperate for help, putin dialed kgb headquarters in moscow, over and over again. finally, one official told him, simply, moscow is silent. >> and i think it felt like a deep betrayal to him. >> vladimir putin was on his own. he went down into the bowels of the building and fired up the furnace. >> he finds himself in the
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basement, at a furnace, shoveling document the, as he hears demonstrations out on the street. it was going so fast that the furnace is blowing up. >> putin torched thousands of pages of kgb documents and secrets, as the crowd closed in. with the fire still raging, putin went outside and faced the mob. by himself. there are armed guards inside, he told them. they will shoot you. and he's able to bluff his way out and tell the crowd, don't try it here. you're going to get hurt. >> putin's threat worked. the mob dispersed. >> this is the drama that stays with putin all the time. the fear of popular uprising.
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♪ >> vladimir putin quelled that fear with absolute control. this is what control looks like. in one of the world's busiest cities, the streets are emptied for vladimir putin's motorcade. 12 million people simply disappear on putin's inauguration day. ♪ >> vladimir putin! ♪ >> the event was perfectly produced for russian television. every detail flawlessly planned.
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almost every detail. a few russians did not follow the script. >> nearly a block away from his inauguration was a cafe called jean jacques where the opposition liked to gather and drink coffee. and the riot police descend on the cafe. arresting people sitting at their tables outside, turning over tables, breaking cups and plates. ♪
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>> the crackdown was not shown on russian television. >> for 94% of russians, their main source of news is television. if it didn't happen on television, it didn't happen. >> putin's control of television is absolutely no critical word about vladimir putin on the russian air waves, none, not one word. >> putin controls everything in russia. >> putin has an untrammelled authority. >> i don't see any checks on his power. >> he is able to make singular, rapid decisions. the absolutism there is unlike anything i've ever seen in russia. >> all that power is propped up by an astonishing approval
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rating, over 80%. and that's according to american pollsters. >> donald trump wins the presidency! >> but when the united states elected a new president, it looked like russia had fallen for a new leader. there were toasts all over moscow. at the parliament, known as the duma. on talk shows. and at bars. [ laughter ] ♪ we are the champions ♪ of the world >> but one man seemed utterly unsurprised by trump's victory. >> he's happy to take credit. and that means that he won the
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u.s. election. the man who is simultaneously president of russia and in charge of the united states. >> mr. putin. >> trump impersonators are everywhere in russia. ♪ >> you're fired. you're fired, you're fired. >> but it could be an american tv program that best describes the putin/trump relationship. >> i think putin views trump as an apprentice. >> at the heart of all this are some deadly serious questions. dozen vladimir putin have some kind of hold over donald trump? did he tamper with the american elections? >> i tried to ask him, mr. putin did not agree to answer my questions, but his closest aide,
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dimitri peskov did. >> the answer is no. saying that a country can intervene in your election process. america, huge country, country with the most powerful country in the world. it's simply impossible. >> we will get at the truth of all this. but to do that, we need to go back to the final days of the country vladimir putin loved. >> i think that down deep in putin there is this sense of extraordinary humiliation over the collapse of the soviet union. because it wasn't just the soviet union. it was the russian empire. >> putin returned home from his kgb posting in 1990 to a country
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he did not recognize. the ussr had been transformed by mikhail gorbachev and his policy of openness, known as glostnost. >> a romance with things western. >> freedom came fast, and it exposed the rock at the heart of soviet communism. across the soviet union, haufrnhaufrn hundreds of thousands of people began demanding democracy and national independence. it was once again what putin feared most. the people. rising up.
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and finally, the people won. >> tonight in moscow at the kremlin, the red flag of the failed soviet union at last came down, and the flag of russia rose. >> 300 years of history erased. >> soviet institutions like the kgb simply ceased to exist. vladimir putin views the breakup of the soviet union as he said himself, to be the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. >> it was a traumatic time. and it sparked a profound change in vladimir putin. he became a politician, deputy mayor in his hometown of st. petersburg. it was not a big job, but putin clearly had big dreams.
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he commissioned this rarely-seen documentary, about himself. presenting vladimir putin, the credits read, in power. weirdly, the sound track is from the broadway show "cats." the ambitious putin may have already been looking toward moscow, because the russian people were desperate for strong leadership. under president boris yeltsin, the new democracy was a mess. >> the entire soviet system, it just collapsed. >> the oligarchs, the men to profited on the spoils of communism became fantasticly rich. >> mercedes benz is selling more of its top line cars in russia than in all of europe. >> but ordinary russians were sinking into desperate poverty.
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they would die of food shortages, even starvation. >> i don't know how to feed my kids without milk. i just don't know what we're going to do. >> president boris yeltsin was in charge, but he seemed increasingly unstable. ♪ >> his drinking. he's barely being propped up. >> russians began calling for a new leader. >> they're tired of the embarrassment of yeltsin. >> waiting in the wings was vladimir putin. he had taken a job in moscow in the kremlin hierarchy, and he had risen through the ranks with lightning speed.
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>> from city bureaucrat to kremlin super star. >> he had just become acting prime minister when it became blindingly clear the country needed a new president. >> yeltsin was ready to topple over, and they settled on putin because they knew yeltsin could retire and not be put in jail. >> boris yeltsin was notoriously corrupt, but kremlin power brokers wanted to protect him. >> so a deal was made. a deal was made. ♪ >> december 31st, 1999. >> the surprise announcement from boris yeltsin that he is resigning as president and turning over power to his prime minister, vladimir putin. >> in the very first moments of the 21st century, vladimir putin became president of russia. his first words?
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"we live in a competitive world, and we are not among its leaders." and right away, putin kwbegan t change his country. he joined soldiers on the front lines in the war in chechnya. he reassured russians that better times were ahead. >> i think we'll get paid, and we'll have work. >> the country quickly fell in love with vladimir putin. the number one song in russia was called "a man like putin." ♪ >> he's just very, he's beautiful man, you see? ♪ >> but the biggest surprise? america also loved vladimir
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putin. president george w. bush thought he'd found a kindred spirit. >> i looked the man in the eye. i found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. i was able to get a sense of his soul. ♪ >> even hollywood fell for the new russian president. he bonded with stars at a charity dinner. ♪ but the honeymoon would soon come to a crashing halt. >> he was a kgb agent. by definition, he doesn't have a
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soul. >> how are you? so grad lad to see you. >> next, when vladimir met hillary. >> it's important to remember how much he despised hillary clinton. hey richard, check out this fresh roasted flavor. looks delicious, huh? -yeah. -richard, try to control yourself. -i can't help it. -and how about that aroma? -love that aroma! umph! -craveability, approved! -oh, can i have some now?! -sure! help yourself. -wait, what? -irresistibly planters. this is pete's yard. and it's been withered by winter. but all pete needs is scotts turf builder lawn food. it's the fast and easy way to a thick, green, resilient lawn with two simple feedings. one now, and one later this spring.
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feeling like father of the year: priceless masterpass, the secure way to pay from your bank don't just buy it. masterpass it. ♪ >> at the heart of the hacking scandal that rocked the 2016 presidential election was an old grudge. >> ladies and gentlemen, my mother, my hero, and our next president, hillary clinton. ♪ this is my
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>> it went beyond ideology. it was personal. ♪ this is my fight song >> vladimir putin was not a fan of hillary clinton. >> of course putin wanted hillary clinton to lose. he hated hillary clinton. >> prime minister, we have a lot of problems. >> the tension between the leaders had been brewing for years. in 2001, another american leader, george w. bush, vouched for putin. >> i was able to get a sense of his soul. >> thank you! thank you! >> but on the campaign trail in 2008, hillary had a different take. >> i could have told him, he was a kgb agent. by definition, he doesn't have a soul. i mean, this is a waste of time, right? >> translator: ms. clinton said that you as a former kgb agent by definition can have no soul. >> putin's reply?
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states men shouldn't be guided by their hearts. they should use their heads. clinton had a lot of tough words for putin over the years. >> he's a very arrogant person to deal with. we have to stand up to his bullying. he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can. >> but it was what happened in 2011 that marked a point of no return. it began with the arab spring protests early that year. the kind of popular uprising that putin dreaded. >> he begins to see himself through the eyes of hosni mubarak. >> mubarak of egypt was facing prosecution. bashar al assad was on the ropes, libya's strongman, gaddafi met a particularly
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gruesome fate, brutally killed after begging for his life. putin may have feared the same bloody fate for himself. just a few weeks later, rebellion arrived in russia. tens of thousands rallied in the streets of moscow. the biggest protest there since the fall of the soviet union. >> people were hanging off lampposts. people were in the streets. really shocking. >> putin was now living the same nightmare he had endured as a kgb officer in east germany in 1989. this time in his own back yard. and he wasn't even president at the time. he was prime minister. having handed the presidency
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over to his associate, dimitri medvedev. >> as the winter got wronger lo longer and colder and colder, the prisons got bigg-- protests bigger and bigger. >> hillary clinton weighed in. >> the russian people like people everywhere deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. >> when putin hears something like that, i imagine he hears something like bush talking about saddam hussein. he hears that they're coming for me. they're trying to drive me from power. what the hell do you know about my people and whether they deserve to have their voices heard, like i'll tell you if they should have their voices heard. >> russians had a lot of reasons to be angry.
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that fall it was announced that putin would run for president again, for a third time. that meant he could potentially rule russia until 2024. >> people said oh, my god, i'm going to die with this guy in power. >> a few months later, the elections for russia's parliament were a farce. >> we tdo have serious concerns about the conduct of the elections. >> hillary clinton called out the election, really. i don't think she realized quite how badly that was going to go down. >> with his back against the wall, putin turned the tables. he blamed the protests on hillary clinton. claiming that she was the one who incited them with their
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complaints about the election. >> there are growing restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights. >> quote-unquote, she sent a signal, that was his word. >> putin's strategy propelled him to victory. in march 2012, he won reelection handily. fighting back tears after a tense fight to maintain his power. he may have won the day. >> hillary, hillary! >> but vladimir putin never forgot about the woman who kicked him when he was down. >> do you think he resolved, you
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indicated my election. >> i think that's the line of thinking that led him to the intervention. i'm totally convinced that russians were meddling and intervening covertly. >> u.s. intelligence concluded that putin personally ordered a campaign to influence the american election, in part because he holds a grudge for clinton's comments in 2011. >> the other accusation -- >> putin had denied that russia was hacking the democrats. >> translator: i don't know anything about that. you know how many hackers there are today. it's an extremely difficult thing to check. >> the russians allegedly focussed their attack on a particularly weak target. the democratic national committee. >> you could have broken into the dnc with a can opener.
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this took less work to get into the dnc's computer system than it took the watergate burglars to get into the dnc offices back during the nixon campaign. >> more than 1900 e-mails released. >> in the middle of a tight race, embarrassing e-mails mysteriously leaked from the clinton campaign were all over the news. >> wikileaks has announced -- >> the clinton pacampaign knows- >> donald trump was delighted by clinton's misfortunes. >> russia, if you're listening, i hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. >> donald j. trump will become the 45th president of the united states, defeating -- >> in the end, america's election went putin's way. >> i just received a call from secretary clinton. >> hillary clinton was quite negative about our country and
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her attitude. >> it won't be bad to get along with russia, right? it wouldn't be bad. >> and to the contrary, the other candidate, donald trump, was saying that we have to find some understanding. >> when people like me, i like them. even putin. >> whom would you like better? >> this is not the outcome we wanted. >> hillary clinton suffered one of the most shocking defeats in american history. >> i know how disappointed you feel, because i feel it too. >> at least in part some observers say because of the alleged hacking operation. >> this is painful, and it will be for a long time. >> putin had apparently avenged his old grudge. >> so help me god. >> congratulations, mr. achieven more. >> the 45th president of the united states. >> if donald trump is in some way compromised.
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if the russian government has something that it feels it has on him in terms of leverage, that's a very serious thing. i don't suggest for a second that i have the answer to this question, but we can't just let this matter drop. >> up next. >> a prominent russian opposition figure has been shot and killed. >> hit him in the back. >> right out in the open. just blocks from the kremlin. >> the story vladimir putin might want the world to forget. d and i will pay for your movie and one snack box. can i keep the walnuts? sold. but i get to pick your movie. can i pick the genre? yes, but it has to be a comedy. a little cash back on the side. with the blue cash everyday card from american express, you get cash back on purchases with no annual fee. throw. it's more than cash back. it's backed by the service and security of american express. it's more than cash back. say carl, we have a question about your brokerage fees.
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february 27, 2015. nearly midnight. a man and woman walk across the bridge right next to the kremlin. a highly-monitored area, littered with surveillance cameras. all those cameras, but amazingly, this grainy, far-away video is the only footage that exists of a critical moment in recent russian history. inside the circle of what a russian tv station claims is boris nemtsov and his girlfriend. he was the well-known opposition leader who led the protests in 2011. while this snowplow hides the two from camera's view, nemtsov was killed, shot four times in the back. >> a prominent russian
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opposition figure has been killed. >> four shots, in the back. >> just blocks from the kremlin. >> so who murdered boris nemtsov? vladimir putin condemned the killing, calling it shameful and imp impudant. in the meantime, doubts remain. >> the assassination was extremely professional. >> reporter: a russian-born journalist says that only one group could be that professional. >> his girlfriend he was walking with didn't realize he had been shot until the car was driving off. it was quick and professional, and nobody has that kind of training outside the government. >> senator john mccain takes it one step further. >> vladimir putin is a thug and a murderer and killer. and a kgb agent.
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he had boris nemtsov killed in the shadow of the kremlin. >> this is allowable behavior. >> it's nonsense, it's nonsense. there's nothing to comment on. >> over the course of putin's time in power, his regime has been accused of deaths of many of its critics, including a journalist and former kgb agent. >> there's not a single thing to sustain these allegations, but they take on a folklorish. >> it may stem in part from the evidence that nemtsov had been accumulating against the president. >> nemtsov was about to reveal information that would prove russia's involvement in the
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conflict in ukraine. >> that ukraine report was released a few months after nemtsov's murder. but there was an earlier nemtsov report published in 2012 that also was embarrassing for putin. it claimed the president had 43 planes, 15 helicopters and four yachts at his disposal. including one super yacht. then there are the palaces. nemtsov's report says there were 20 presidential palaces available to putin at any time. one of the palaces, known in the press simply as putin's palace, was said to be worth $1 billion. >> this is not true. this is actually perverted reality. >> his spokesperson says every world leader, especially a nuclear world power like russia
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or the united states has access to state-owned homes, planes and helicopters that are safe and have secure communications. >> of course he uses this vehicle, this plane, this residences, but it's not his property. the rumors about his wealth, the rumors about the palaces has nothing to do with reality. just, just lies. >> the rumors of putin's wealth? well, some of them are simply staggering. >> and some people including myself believe he's the richest man in the world or one of the richest men in the world. >> he was once the largest foreign investor in russia. now he's one of vladimir putin's toughest critics. we talked in 2015. you really think putin is the richest man in the world? >> i really think that. and i'm not just saying that crazily. >> estimated net worth? >> $200 billion. i believe it's $200 billion. >> that would make putin almost two and a half times wealthier
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than the man forbes says is the world's wealthiest, bill gates. >> all these accusations about billions and billions of dollars of his fortune, this is not true. don't believe in them. he's got nothing. he's got what he writes in his personal financial declaration every year. >> putin's most recent financial declaration says that he personally owns less than half an ache eare of land, a roughly square foot apartment and a 200 square foot the garage in which maybe he puts the vehicle listed in that document, a vintage russian sedan, a 4x4 and a trailer hike th trailer like this one. the document does not say how much putin has in the bank or in investments. adam zubin talked to the bbc.
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>> i'm not in a position to give you figures, but what i can say is three supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. that is not an accurate statement of the man's wealth. >> but if putin was getting rich, he surely wasn't the only one in russia. take this statistic. in 1996, when putin had just moved to moscow and begun his climb to the top, there were no billionaires in all of russia. by 2014, russia had 111 billionaire th billionaires, according to forbes. and while moscow now has multiple bentley dealerships to satisfy its bevy of billionaires, the average wage in russia is less than $450 a month. that's lower than the average wage in china. >> vladimir putin! >> but despite all the allegations, despite all the
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accusations, the fact remains, vladimir putin is remarkably popular in russia. why? we'll tell you when we come back. has been ranked number one for the 7th time in a row by rootmetrics. (man) hey, uh, what's rootmetrics? it's the nation's largest independent study and it ranked verizon #1 in call, text, data, speed and reliability. (woman) do they get a trophy? not that i know of. but you get unlimited done right. (man 2) why don't they get a trophy? (man 3) they should get something. (woman 2) how about a plaque? i have to drop this. my arm's getting really tired. unlimited on verizon. 4 lines, just $45 per line. two words: it heals.e different? how? with heat. unlike creams and rubs that mask the pain, thermacare has patented heat cells that penetrate deep to increase circulation and accelerate healing. let's review: heat, plus relief, plus healing, equals thermacare. the proof that it heals is you.
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♪ the most powerful man in the world is also the most popular. >> vladimir putin! >> vladimir putin's approval ratings have soared as high as 86% in recent years. consider that american presidents are happy when they break the 50% mark. ♪ how has he done it? partly, it's the cult of putin. he has mastered the art of the manly photo op. he rides horseback bare chested, finds ancient treasures under water, rides a submarine to the bottom of the black sea, flies planes, fights forest fires.
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>> a middle-aged leader riding around shirtless on a horse like conan the barbarian after a dozen dounuts. he thinks this looks good. >> everything we find ridiculous about vladimir putin is very appealing in a media universe that he controls absolutely. >> perhaps the foundation of the putin juggernaut is a political truism no matter where you live. it's the economy, stupid. after the chaotic years of boris yeltsin, putin stepped in and stabilized the country, and he rode the wave of ever rising oil prices, which translated into rising wages and soaring stock indeces. then in late 2014, the party stopped. oil prices slumped. and soon after came western economic sanctions. vladimir putin had navigated
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hard times well. he had slashed social spending, implemented an austerity program. allowed the ruble to fall and the bank kept it in check. >> the it's an amazing transformation. >> add to the economics, putin's secret sauce, nationalism. and it surged in 2014 after an invasion that shocked the world. >> bigger nations must not be able to bully the small. >> vladimir putin grabbed a piece of ukraine for russia. >> that's the kind of thing adolf hitler did in the 1930s. >> it looked different through russian eyes. >> i have never met a russian
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that accepted ukraine as a totally separate state. >> many ukrainians deeply resented the invasion. ♪ but not russians. they see it as a revival of a deep sense of power and national destiny. >> putin has given them their pride back. russia is once again a great power. >> putinism is an ideology of social conservatism of anti-westernism, but above all, of national power. putin might say he has made russia great again. sound familiar. >> we will make america great again. like putin, trump has used
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nationalism to boost his support. many believe that donald trump is no vladimir putin. >> putin is a much more practiced, subtle, cunning player. he's playing in poker terms a couple deuces at the highest level. >> reasserted russia on the world stage from a position of relative weakness like nobody i can think of. that's an amazing feat of geopolitics. energy is amazing. how we use it is only limited by our imagination.
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finally, here are my thoughts on he whom we have called the most powerful man in the world. let me explain the title. the united states and china for that matter are more powerful countries than russia, of course. the power of a head of state is determined by the country's strength and the capacity he or she has to exercise that power unilaterally, unconstrained by other institutions, parties or political forces. and combining those two metrics, it's easy to see why vladimir putin rises to the top he has created what he calls a vertical of power, unlike any we have seen in any great nations, as the russian chess grand master has noted, himself a harsh critic of putin, the entire structure of russian political authority rests on one man.
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when the tsar died, you knew the process by which his successor would be elevated. when the general secretary of soviet communist party died, his successor would be selected. when putin dies, what will happen? no one knows. to understand putin, you have to understand russia. the last 100 years for that country have seen the fall of the czar, the collapse of democracy, the great depression. world war ii with its tens of millions of russians dead. stalin's totalitarian brutalities. the breakup of the soviet union, boris yeltsin's corruption. and then comes putin. with increasing respect in the world.
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respect is important. russians have immense national pride. russia is after all the largest country on the planet. it encampuses 11 time zones and straddles europe, asia and the middle east. culturally, it has often thought of itself as the third rome preserving christianity even as rome fell to the barbarians. putin understands russia, he also understands the world. he's not foolish enough to make a frontal assault on europe or america. he knows how to use power. with cyber tools and disinformation, he understands the vulnerabilities of free soetds. the internal divisions and discord, and the gaping openness. he understands the fridge ilty
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of institutions like the european union and nato, and ideas like integration and diversity. in other words, vladimir putin understands us very well. the question is, do we -- does donald trump really understand him? breaking news, president trump promised everybody would have health insurance. well, maybe not everybody. this is cnn tonight, i'm don lemon. a stunning 24 million more people will be uninsured 10 years from now under the gop health care plan. what will the president say to his supporters who lose coverage. the house mesa pina the administration if they don't get answers to their questions about president trump's wiretapping claims by next week's hearing. that is as the president wasn't accusing president obama of


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