Comment 28 Dec 16

What Will Russia do in 2017?

The Kremlin leader starts the new year in a position of strength. The big question is whether he will use the opportunity, or squander it.

Marcus Tanner
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on Deember 27. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AP

If Vladimir Putin were a drinking man - which apparently he is not - he would surely be pouring himself an extra large glass of champagne at midnight on December 31st as the Kremlin bells ring in 2017.

This past year has been the gift that keeps on giving. It marks a radical turnaround from Russia’s position only a year or two ago, when all-out war seemed possible with Turkey and the Kremlin faced a solid front in the West.

True, Russia made off with Crimea in 2014, a place of sentimental attachment to Russians as the old watering hole of the Tsars. But when Russia gained Crimea, it lost the rest of Ukraine. In hindsight, it was a modest return on Russia’s huge investment in a much bigger scheme aimed at reversing the pro-Western turnaround in Kiev.

What a difference a mere year can make. To the south, the feud with Turkey has melted away while Russia’s investment in the Syrian government has paid off as government troops mop up the last rebel positions in the country’s second city, Aleppo.

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