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Reviews |  Putin showed his real hand.  The West continued to shake.

Vladimir Putin, especially these days, is widely reviled. For some he is a war criminal, for others he is a dictator, and for many he is simply a very bad man.

But it has not always been so.

We skimmed through 20 years of video footage of international summits, speeches and press conferences and discovered a man who was once held in high esteem: the one who went fishing and dancing with George W. Bush, who fell in warm embraces with Tony Blair and whose jokes had NATO leaders rolling on the floor in laughter.

As the op-ed video above starkly reveals, Western leaders once viewed Mr. Putin not just as an ally but also, apparently, as a friend.

Even if they were simply giving him the benefit of the doubt for political purposes, they were taking a naive gamble of historic proportions: be nice to Mr. Putin, and maybe he would be nice back.

It is true that this form of personal diplomacy has won important security victories. Arms control treaties have been signed and Mr Putin has allowed US planes to strike the Taliban from bases in Russia’s satellite states.

But as Russian tanks rolled into Georgia in August 2008, Mr. Bush learned that his eight-year friendship with the Russian leader had earned him no leverage over Mr. Putin’s territorial ambitions.

While it’s debatable whether Western governments could have foreseen the bloody horizon of Mr. Putin’s vision, let’s be clear on one thing: personal diplomacy doesn’t work when you need it most.

nytimes Gt

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