Least of all, Walter Russell Meade in today's WSJ. Yes, he admires Vlad's statecraft and his determined pursuit of perceived Russian national interests but suggests that underlying realities make them Canute-like in their ultimate outcome. Certainly, Vlad has stopped NATO, with the exception of three tiny Baltic states, from encroaching any further into what was once the Soviet Union. Also, and without too much difficulty, he has made a complete fool of the EU's efforts at a 'foreign policy' in the Ukraine. He has maintained a steely, real-politik eye on who to back in the middle east, particularly in Syria, such that even the Egyptian generals might be open to his advances. But it was in his earlier days as Russian leader that 'Vlad the Impaler' showed his real metal which ended up soaked in Chechen blood. They truly were 'impaled', over and over again without mercy until they surrendered. I suspect - I can put it no higher because I simply do not know for sure - that there is unlikely to be a more resolutely, some might call it fanatically, patriotic people than the Russian Slavs. It seems not to matter to them how their leaders treat them provided that Russian might in the form of a clenched fist is well and truly exerted on others. And there-in, according to Mr. Meade, lies the great Russian Slav fault line.
Like many other nations in Europe, the demographics are all wrong. Christian Russian Slavs are not breeding anywhere near fast enough but their fellow Russian but Muslim citizens are! Vlad's bloody efforts in Chechnya wiped out most of the secular young Chechens fighting for independence but very many of their Muslim 'brothers' simply faded over the borders into other Muslim countries where they have been busy honing their terrorist skills. Again, according to Mr. Meade, they are now equally quietly slipping back into Russia via the borders with Muslim Asia.
But, as always and forever, "it's the economy, stoopid!" Putin has enjoyed the good years of stratospherically high oil and gas prices but now he is well and truly 'fracked'! Despite the efforts of, arguably his greatest 'ally', the dimwit in the White House who does everything possible to discourage American shale oil exploration', America is rapidly approaching the point of being self-sufficient and the disappearance of that giant buyer on world oil markets is already being felt in falling prices. Without the oil/gas 'dosh' Putin will not be able to offer bread and Olympic circuses to his people - and that will be when the trouble kicks off. He can be happy that due to their waffling incompetence to say nothing of their internal squabbling he has nothing immediate to fear from the west - although he will be watching the early signs of a resurgent military Germany with care! - but when he looks east I suspect a slight sweat breaks out on his brow! China just keeps on getting bigger and bigger and soon it will get bolder.
So far, so good, Vlad, but whatever you do, don't stop peddling!