The advent of a significant Ukrainian advance in the Donbas has opened up scads of poorly informed speculation in the Western press. The fact remains that Russia has increased its direct involvement in the conflict, not reduced it. The so-called "rebels" are Russian led, Russian equipped and indeed much of the military personnel is Russian too. The Ukrainian-Russian border is being held open on the Russian side in order to permit the transit of large amounts of heavy weapons to the puppet army that Putin claims to deny all knowledge of.
This is a flagrant violation of international law- it is an act of war against a sovereign nation in the same way that Iraq's war against Kuwait was in 1990. Permitting this outrage to continue is extremely dangerous.
Russia is a mafia state led by murderous criminals and their contempt for law, both domestic and international is a threat to global peace and security, not merely the health and prosperity of Ukraine. Russia is an extremely hostile power and has aggressive designs in other places, apart from Ukraine. How that aggression is channeled and contained will be the critical question over the next couple of years.
Yet the fact is that Putin's aggression is being driven by simple panic. The domestic economy, already weak has taken a substantial turn for the worse as the folly of Putin's decision to build Russia as a Petro-state is exposed by the shale gas revolution. For all the bombast of "Gazprom to be worth a Trillion Dollars" hype of a few years ago, we can now see that Gazprom is in fact in increasing financial difficulty, while small entrepreneurs that might have been the seed corn for the future have been destroyed and as many as three million Russians have fled the cranky authoritarianism of Putin.
The fact is, as many Russians now say privately, Putin is now trapped by his own system. He only trusts a small circle of informants- and they simply tell him what he wants to hear. Poll after poll shows Russia is now increasingly disliked across the planet, but in the Putinist bubble, it has, apparently, never been more respected. The economy is being mauled by the breakdown in confidence caused by Russian aggression, but in the gilded Kremlin of late stage Putinism, the crisis has yet to break.
"When you don't know what to do, you do what you know"- and Putin's crushing of civil liberties and total subversion of the economy for the greed of his cronies is pushing Russia to the brink of crack-up. The voices of Russian dissent, cowed and stilled in public, are growing more angry in private. The talk around the Russian kitchen tables is sullen and bitter.
The death of Valeriya Novodvorskaya one of the bravest and most uncompromising dissidents both of the Soviet and the Putinist system reminds us that there are many who do not share the Fascist contempt for the individual that lies at the dark heart of Vladimir Putin's system of cronyism. A moral renewal is still awaited- even nearly a century after the criminal Lenin seized power, his legacy remains as abject and as poisonous as ever.
The attack on Ukraine is a turning point, but it is not likely to lead on to fortune. Rather the crushing of dissent is more likely to increase social pressure to the point where Moscow too, could be facing its own Maidan. Whether that happens this year or next or in two years time, is an open question, but 61 year old Putin is only two years off the Russian male life expectancy now, and even if he lacks the vices that cause such a low life expectancy, he is already a distant and solitary figure to many younger Russians. The national conversation is already moving on, and the frustration of the young urbanites is already moving towards contempt. Yes, it is true that the large mass of provincial and rural Russia still looks towards the "Little Father", the Republican Czar, but ultimate power and control rests in Moscow and St. Petersburg- and here, there are many who are already very unhappy indeed.