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Putin ‘a great illustration of how power-hungry monsters’ overstay their welcome

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Many people couldn’t imagine meeting for drinks with the daughter of a dictator who was notorious for feeding dissidents to crocodiles. But for Brian Klaas, it’s all in a day’s work.

Klaas has long been interested in the topic of power and its abuse. He researched it for his PhD dissertation, and currently discusses it in podcasts and writes about it as a Washington Post columnist. Now he has a new book out about the subject, “Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us,” published by Scribner.

“All the available evidence points in one direction,” Klaas writes in the book. “Becoming powerful makes you more selfish, reduces empathy, increases hypocrisy, and makes you more likely to commit abuse.” Citing a well-known observation, he continues, “Lord Acton was right: power does tend to corrupt.”

“Sometimes people become bad because they’re in power,” Klaas told The Times of Israel over Zoom. “Sometimes bad people get into power. Sometimes people in power face impossible choices and do bad things because the alternatives are also bad. It’s important to accurately diagnose which is which. It’s important to understand why something is happening if you’re going to make it preventable in the future.”

The book has become more timely since the eruption of the Russia-Ukraine conflict — and the subsequent crackdown on Russian oligarchs by the United States and Europe.

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“Putin stays in power thanks to the oligarchs,” Klaas said in a follow-up email. “If they turn on him, he’s in trouble.”

In this December 2, 2010, file photo, then-Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, right, congratulates members of the Russian delegation, from left: conductor Valery Gergiyev, businessman Roman Abramovich and Nizhny Novgorod governor Valery Shantsev; after it was announced that Russia would host the 2018 soccer World Cup, in Zurich, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alexei Nikolsky, Pool, File)

“For much of the last several decades, Western governments have been complicit in allowing

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