Commentators such as Movchan and Inozemtsev know full well its impossible to make accurate predictions even for the next year or two: Russia’s strategic direction depends too much on the will of one man. As with most people in Russia, however, they see Putin’s power as unshakable and project his increasingly nostalgic vision of Russia’s role in the world into the future. It is, indeed, hard to see what force could topple Putin in the immediate future or change his mind about breaking with the West and making a doomed bid for self-sufficiency. Therefore the scenarios of economic gloom and political sclerosis.
An opportunity was there to be seized, to open a pathway for the Russian people to self-determination, a more broad and harmonious integration with western society. The Russian psyche appears to crave a strongman, and the West was perhaps too timid in exerting influence when a stable bridge from the Gorbachev/Yeltsin era to a new, pro-western figure was needed.
We compounded the error by completely misjudging the blackness of Putin’s soul – seeking through wish to find qualities that were never there. Bush and then Clinton/Obama have made the same mistakes. At least now there can be no doubt what the man is about.