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It was quite a week for Vladimir Putin. The Russian autocrat won a constitutional referendum clearing the way for him to remain in power until 2036. And Putin once again caused a firestorm in Washington, this one ignited by reports that Russian military intelligence offered to pay Taliban fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

If the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing America into ever-deeper competition with China, the challenge from Russia — the less mighty but more aggressive of the authoritarian powers — won’t be fading anytime soon.

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