Gorbachev: He brought democracy to Russia. So why is he backing Putin, the man undoing his legacy?

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Two decades ago, Mr. Gorbachev was reshaping the world. He opened up the Soviet system, helping to free the nations of Eastern Europe and end the Cold War.

Other titans of the age -- Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher -- left the world stage with honor. Mr. Gorbachev, 60 years old when he stepped down as Soviet president in 1991, plunged into a political purgatory.

In the West, though lionized for destroying communism, he was also seen as having capitulated to the Americans. At home, the Soviet Union collapsed as his reforms took on a life of their own. Russians scorned him. Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, marginalized and humiliated him. To raise money, Mr. Gorbachev did a Pizza Hut commercial.

So he responded warmly when Mr. Yeltsin's successor, President Vladimir Putin, extended him invitations to the Kremlin, a semi-official post and words of encouragement for Mr. Gorbachev's own political party. Mr. Gorbachev has returned the favor with a stream of endorsements of Mr. Putin.

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