Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has been busy during recent years. Here is a partial list of what he has achieved. He has: 1) recaptured Crimea, the single bit of territory the Russian people most regretted losing after the Soviet Union collapsed; 2) reduced Ukraine, from which he grabbed it, to a nervous wreck; 3) put the fear of God into Nato by giving the impression that he might invade one or more of the Baltic states; 4) handed Turkey the opportunity to demonstrate its independence from the United States and Europe by cosying up to him; 5) ditto Israel; 6) saved President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the ophthalmologist-turned-barrel-bomber, from a Colonel Gaddafi-style lynching, and in the process rescued the incomparable ruins of Palmyra; 7) struck up such a good relationship with Iran that he’s been given the use of a military base there; and now, 8) Mr Putin is presenting himself as the one man who can bring peace, not just to Syria but to Israel and the Palestinians as well. Oh yes, and he may or may not have some dodgy deal going with the man who could, if things go wrong for Hillary Clinton and the rest of us, be the next US president.
If there were a Nobel prize for clever footwork, Putin would thoroughly deserve to get it. Of course, aside from numbers 1) and 6), there is nothing in any way substantial on this list; and if President Obama, who is an actual Nobel laureate, had had a bit more lead in his pencil over the past eight years a great deal of it wouldn’t have happened. However, Putin is a superb opportunist, and he has taken full advantage of the chances Obama and the rest of us have offered him.
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