Russians remain fearful of change—though are also suspicious that the change they fear is already upon them.
The only recipe from this unhealthy angst has been distraction, and now
the Kremlin has to invent a new one—preferably before Russia’s remaining
“footprint” in Syria brings home a second painful setback (the first
one was the downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish fighter last
November). The problem is not only that the costs of producing effective
distractions has become barely affordable but also that each of the
previous distractions remains a burden and a liability. Putin has become
a hostage to his own surprises and has no way of knowing how the next
one may backfire.