Mike Haynes's thoughtful article on the Putin leadership (May SR) was a welcome change from the superficial analysis of the mass media.
One minute they give the impression that Putin's the new Stalin, the next he's a lame duck, then he's Stalin again. Thanks to this kind of coverage on both sides, most of us still have no idea how hated Gorbachev was in Russia while many Russians still find it difficult to understand why Thatcher was so unpopular and had to go.
One of the most important recent events in Russia's 'near abroad' was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which was presented by the western media as a simple triumph of free-market capitalism. In fact, as Mike explained, this was not simply a question of Putin losing points to Bush in the international game. And if such instability develops further in Uzbekistan, a key US base in Central Asia, we could see a rather different game altogether.