I've been reading books about the last days of the Soviet Union, especially David Remnick's magisterial Lenin's Tomb, but also Serhii Plokhiy's The Last Empire, which is particularly insightful about Ukraine's critical role in the breakup.
The more I learn, the more Boris Yeltsin emerges as a giant in the burial of the totalitarian regime and birth of a democracy for the first time in Russia's thousand-year history. The vast importance of the "saint" Andrei Sakharov and the courageous priest Alexander Men. And the smaller Mikhail Gorbachev becomes: naive, overtaken by the reforms he began, ultimately captured by the reactionaries. Yesterday's man.
Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer, is no doubt a bad guy. But a new Stalin? Hardly. Stalin murdered at least 30 million people. Indeed, Sakharov believed that the KGB contained the seeds of potential reformers because its agents were more educated and had seen more of the world than the communist nomenklatura.
While brings us to Russia bombing in Syria and the proto-hysterical reaction of the American media. For example, the Washington Post's David Ignatius implies that President Obama has lost Syria to the Russians. As if Syria was ours to lose.