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Peter's Ploy

A plot by the Russian army to depose Peter the Great was uncovered one day in the early 18th century. Among those involved was an officer who belonged to a secret society whose members practiced enduring intensive pain. Even after being tortured four times, he refused to confess. Peter, realizing that pain would not break the man, approached him and kissed him. "I know full well that you were party to the plot against me," he declared, "but you have been punished enough. Now, confess freely to me on account of the love you owe to your czar, and I swear that I will grant you a complete pardon. Not only that, but as a special sign of my mercy I will make you a colonel." So astonished was the officer by Peter's ploy that he embraced the czar and made a full confession.

[Peter kept his promise and made him a colonel.]

[Concerns about the loyalty of the Russian army were raised again with the demise of the Soviet Union at the turn of the millennium. "The commander of the Kursk submarine," Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army officer and scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, observed of the ill-fated vessel which sank in 2000, "got a salary of $200 a month. It is hard for me in Moscow to find an assistant for less than $500 a month -- and this was a nuclear submarine with the power to annihilate a major country."]

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