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Putin's chilling history rewrite

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned recently that the world is headed toward a new Cold War division. But remarks by the current Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and ambitions attributed to China's leader Xi Jinping suggest something even more dangerous - a new alliance trying to change the current world order and ready to throw its military weight around, backed by nuclear weapons.

It sounds ominously more like the Axis alliance that caused World War II than the Warsaw Pact that defined the Soviets and its allies during the Cold War.

The Axis alliance of the 1930s and 1940s united the efforts of Germany, Japan and Italy to change the world's map. Their efforts led directly to a global conflict that was only brought to an end by their unconditional surrender after the deadliest war in history.

One of the more notorious events immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II was the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact of Aug. 23, 1939.

That unholy alliance of brutal dictators opened the door to the division of Central Europe between Russia and Germany.

Hitler's army invaded Poland eight days later, prompting Britain to declare war on Germany on Sept. 3.

In moves reminiscent of Hitler's annexation of part of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Russian President Putin this year annexed the Crimea from Ukraine.

And he is clearly moving his expansionist zeal toward eventual annexation of the Donbass region of Ukraine as well.

In recent remarks, Mr. Putin said he found nothing wrong with the Hitler-Stalin pact.

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Elsewhere, he suggested that Britain and France were responsible for the outbreak of World War II because they had taken no steps against Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Putin's reinterpretation of historical events attempts to show Russia as a victim of Western propaganda. It also is an attempt to justify his aggression as a means of bolstering his authoritarian rule.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that China's ambitious President Xi Jinping wants to redraw the geopolitical map of Asia and place China at the center. China and Russia have worked together to diminish American influence in Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which some see as a rival to NATO. Russia has recently reached a major agreement to supply China with oil and gas.

What these moves signal, at the least, is the re-emergence of a bipolar world, as Mr. Gorbachev has suggested.

But the ambition of both leaders to redraw the world's political boundaries risks something far more dangerous.

In the long run, China and Russia will be rivals for dominance in Asia, and have conflicting territorial claims.

But they have put aside their natural rivalry for now

And that could spell big trouble ahead.

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