In the life of any country a situation can arise that requires a clear choice between positive change or stagnation and decline. At such times, only the collective will of the people can generate sufficient will to begin the process of change. And yes, sometimes the awakening of national consciousness begins with struggling over a mountain of dirty and snowy slush on the side of the road.
Russia's ruling class, taking its cue from the president, has completely shifted into a world of its own, replete with a separate set of ideas, values and principles. And the problem is not whether the Russian or Western world is more "correct," but that the two sides have conclusively formed separate camps, unable to understand and unwilling to even listen to each other.
The Russian Dream is for the country to be a great empire and to inspire fear. Interviews I recently conducted in Moscow all ended with the same words: "First, the Olympic Games in Sochi, then we annexed Crimea. And now, we've won the hockey championships!"
When incompetence in the Kremlin turns murderous, its incumbents can begin to tremble. As news of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine trickled into Russia, people with a long memory recalled the Soviet Union's attack, 31 years ago this September, on Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and its political consequences. Back then, the Kremlin first lied to the world by saying that it had nothing to do with the missing KAL plane. Later it claimed that the South Korean jet was on an American spy mission. But, within the Soviet leadership, the incident was a tipping point.
Mr. Putin has had many opportunities to condemn the violence, but he has failed every time. I want his words to be addressed to Girkin and other Russian citizens disturbing Ukraine, not to my president. Putin's silence, which effectively condones the terrorists' activities in eastern Ukraine, bares a grave cost. Ending the violence has been the essence of an agreement reached in Geneva many months ago to which Russia was a signatory.