Russia pulled off a major diplomatic coup in November by inducing Ukraine to abandon its proposed association agreement with the EU, the consequences of which are currently being played out on the streets of Kiev. But it would wrong to assume that Russia now calls all the shots in relations with its ex-Soviet neighbour...
Make no mistake: the Sochi Games are Project Putin. The president is a keen skier and he has long been a fan of the Sochi slopes. He has invested a huge amount of personal prestige in these Games, which is why everyone expects that they'll be a huge success. If they fail, Mr Putin fails. And the Russian president doesn't do failure.
I used to argue that it would make a welcome change if - just occasionally - politicians answered a question with the words: "I don't know." I didn't expect the President of the United States to take me seriously. Should the US launch a military strike against Syria? Obama: Don't know. Is Russia serious in its chemical weapons initiative? Don't know. There's a part of me that welcomes such refreshing candour. But to be honest, it's only a very small part of me.
If the US attacks Syria on its own, it won't be the first time in a solo operation after a British rejection. UK politicians have short memories when trumpeting the Special Relationship. Some may recall Bill Clinton's first foreign trip as President was to the UK to seek support for operations to end the bloodbath in Bosnia after four years of carnage and NATO/UN fence sitting.