Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2017)—Vladimir Putin is no chess master. He’s a gambler who has taken larger risks in recent years. And while the subversion of the 2016 U.S. election was a spectacular geopolitical heist pulled off on a shoestring budget, Americans have a key misunderstanding of Russia and the man that pulls the strings. The Atlantic staff writer Julia Ioffe spent months reporting on her native Russia to determine “What Putin Really Wants,”appearing on the cover of The Atlantic’s January/February 2018 issue and published today at TheAtlantic.com. In the wide-ranging cover story, Ioffe offers the definitive telling of how the Kremlin, despite its limitations, pulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history. And she describes how far an emboldened Putin is prepared to go—in 2018, in 2020—in order to get what he wants.
In the same way that Russians overestimate America, seeing it as an all-powerful orchestrator of global political developments, Ioffe reports that Americans project their own fears onto Russia, a country that is a paradox of deftness, might, and profound weakness—unshakably steady, yet somehow always teetering on the verge of collapse. Ioffe writes that the subversion of the election was less a result of strategic brilliance than it was of tactical flexibility—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.