Adversity can sometimes be turned into advantage, and the best person to impart that lesson to the world is the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. A little over a month ago, Mr Putin seemed to have been driven into a corner by the worldwide scorn that followed the gunning down of a Malaysian airliner over the eastern Ukraine airspace controlled by pro-Russia rebels. In addition to bad publicity, there was bad news. A determined onslaught of Ukraineís forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions was forcing the rebels to fall back. It is difficult to say if it was bravado or desperation that forced Russia to change the game, but there can be no doubting Mr Putinís determination in effecting the change. Although Russia continues to deny its responsibility for the fate of MH17, it is cooperating with Kiev and every other concerned international player in the investigation of the accident so that no one can blame it for not cooperating. Then again, there is little effort now to cloak Russian assistance to the rebels. Russian tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and arms have defiantly made it into the hands of anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine, enabling the rebels to recover their positions. Russia has also opened a new front between the border and Mariupol to deflect the Ukrainian attack. To top it all, there are Mr Putinís latest pronouncements on his intention to craft Novorussiya and warn the United States of America that Russia should not be messed with.
Is the Russian confidence intended to serve as a contrast to the USís pusillanimity? Perhaps, since most of the measures appear to have coincided with the Westís decision to start a half-hearted aerial mission to stop the progress of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Nothing but Russiaís zest to defend its interests in Ukraine could have driven the message home to the Petro Poroshenko government that its dependence on Nato is not going to strengthen Ukraine either economically or strategically. It is significant that the message comes at the same time that Kiev is negotiating with Moscow, for the second time in weeks. Mr Putin is hoping that Mr Poroshenko understands the futility of Ukraineís tilt to the West. The resultant anxiety may cause Mr Poroshenko to be more flexible about granting eastern Ukraine the autonomy that would enable Russia to retain its supremacy over the region.