The dismal flood of news out of Ukraine could hardly be more discouraging for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, apparently at the hands of Russian-backed separatists, and the ghastly scenes at the crash site shocked the world. After months of dithering, Western leaders have imposed sweeping economic sanctions against Russia. The separatists themselves are in retreat, battered and bloodied.
Mr. Putin appears to be cornered. So why are Western leaders so antsy?
Because a cornered prey is unpredictable. A memorable passage from Mr. Putin’s 2000 quasi autobiography, “First Person,” tells you everything you need to know.… Seguir leyendo »
The czarist trappings of President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise move to free Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, announced at a marathon news conference on Dec. 19, were hard to miss. Mr. Putin’s offhand, backstage comment that 10 years of imprisonment had been punishment enough for Mr. Khodorkovsky, his onetime nemesis (and once Russia’s richest man), conveyed just the right mix of omnipotence, benevolence and piety.
Inside the hall, the atmosphere had been far less dignified than what Mr. Putin’s role model, Czar Alexander II, might have tolerated. Fawning reporters had waved stuffed animals to get Mr. Putin’s attention, and one reporter read a poem beseeching him to renationalize the energy industry so that the Russian people would repay the favor by asking him “to rule for the rest of your life.”
At first glance, this turn of events seems to illustrate just how much Russia has changed since October 2003, when Mr.… Seguir leyendo »