Vladimir Putin is the leading politician in Europe at present. This is a remarkable turnaround since becoming a pariah after annexing Crimea and intervening in Eastern Ukraine. Then came the thunderbolt of Russia's involvement in Syria followed by a partial withdrawal in March 2016. His tactics are similar to the military tactic of maskirovka (confusing the enemy about one's real intentions) and they have worked brilliantly - not only outmanoeuvring the Americans but the EU as well. He now sees himself as the key decision maker on Syria's future. So how has this extraordinary turnaround in his fortunes occurred? Is it mainly due to President Obama's foreign policy, which appears to be based on 'this has nothing to do with me'? What is Vova's long term aim in Syria? Could it eventually become his Vietnam? Putin's domestic approval ratings are remarkably high, given the poor state of the economy, with little improvement in prospect in 2016. Poverty levels have risen, yet domestic protest has been muted. The military has been given the task of ensuring that no colour revolution takes place in Russia. Is it up to the task? Can Russia again become a dominant force in European politics?
Martin McCauley, with a commercial background both in Agriculture and as a Quantity Surveyor in the Building Industry, is one of the shrewdest observers of Russia. He studied and lectured at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies (SSEES) for over 35 years, where he was Senior Lecturer in Russian Government and Politics, and Head of the Department of Social Sciences. He acted as a business consultant in the Gorbachev era, and has regularly visited China, promoting educational exchanges and trade. Martin McCauley's latest book is "Origins of the Cold War" 4th edition (Routledge 2016). His next tome is "The Cold War 1949-2016"