How far is the end?

When Putin says, “We need to get on with work, not look for successors,” it’s a sign he fears being viewed as a lame duck and has good reasons for that. These reasons are not constitutional term limits but rather boundaries set by Nature and/or Providence. “We need not look for successors” also means he has been looking for them but either doesn’t want to reveal his pick prematurely or has failed so far – failed, perhaps, in a more general sense of lacking an exit strategy other than dying in office.

For the first time, the Russian dictator is facing a crisis on all fronts. His popularity is not only sliding down the drain but is turning into its opposite, public odium. Put simply, people are getting so fed up with the old man that his face makes them sick. His plebiscite is widely resented. The economy is in decline, and another major crisis is looming ahead. Russia’s overseas incursions have not yielded much. Worse, its troops and irregulars have failed when faced with a serious adversary, such as Turkey’s military. What’s left, other than Crimea?

We’ve reached the multibillion-dollar question: will he go out with a bang? Suppose the dictator has been reliably informed that he can count on no more than, say, two years of non-vegetable existence. Should we expect him to start a war in keeping with his demented dreams? Where? How? Who or what can stop him?

Update. Kremlin Denies Eyeing Territorial Claims After Putin’s Comments In Documentary. Watch the documentary. There’s no way any reasonable person, provided they understand Russian of course, can ignore Putin’s message: you (Ukraine? Kazakhstan? the Baltics?) have “taken” Russian lands and Russia has the right, as the USSR’s successor state, to claim them back. It’s a clear, unsophisticated, straightforward justification for a pending military aggression. At best, a credible threat of such. This time, Kazakhstan seems to me the most likely target.

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