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Brezhnev is remembered as a shuffling old man clinging to power past his time, but in his early years he was a vigorous player of the Kremlin power sweepstakes. Brezhnev consolidated his rule by removing hard-line opponents, sidelining Premier Aleksei Kosygin and his limited economic reforms, and allowing party barons virtually unlimited tenure that contributed to aging leadership and stagnation across the Soviet system. His farm policies failed to address underlying problems of the collectivized agricultural system but led to a large rise in unproductive spending that contributed to Soviet economic difficulties in later years. Brezhnev presided over a major buildup in Soviet nuclear and conventional weapons. A secret “missile civil war” among Soviet weapons designers set the stage for a massive missile buildup that put the USSR ahead of the United States in some categories of weapons.

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