From Brexit to the US election, Aleppo to post-truth, 2016 has ensure the Kremlin chiefs dreams realised

Donald Trump should not have been named Time magazines Person of the Year. Thats not to construct the schoolboy fault of presuming the awarding to be a badge of moral approving: I know it merely recognises the individual who has predominated the previous 12 months, for good or ailment.( Its why Time has no reason to regret handing the 1938 honor to Adolf Hitler .)

Even so, and even though Trump was clearly the biggest news story of 2016, he still should not have won. For there is another figure who looms larger over this annus horribilis, albeit from the darkness. He aims this year with a wolfish smile, content that almost all his dream have come true. That man is Vladimir Putin.

He surveys the global landscape and sees almost every sign pointing his route. From Aleppo to the White House, from post-truth to Brexit, this is the year the world was reshaped in his image. He may not have been the guide hand behind every transformation, though he surely dedicated several of them a nudge, but together they attained him 2016 s biggest winner.

Start with Syria, which even in this year of horrors surely merits a special infamy of its own. The leaders of western nations ritually denounce the catastrophe that has been visited upon the people of Aleppo, eloquently denouncing the bombing of hospitals, including makeshift clinics hidden in cellars, the flattening of civilian regions, the killing of children, the refusal of food and medication. And yet Putin knows he need not listen. Because the important fact is the one on the ground: no one has stopped him or his Syrian vassal, Bashar al-Assad, from continuing the slaughter.

Syrian
Syrian pro-government forces-out in Aleppos Jdeideh neighbourhood. Putin has proved that it is possible to kill or dispossess millions of civilians with impunity. Photo: George Ourfalian/ AFP/ Getty Images

Plenty have warned that Aleppo will be the Guernica of our generation, recollected among the greatest crimes against humanity. Future historians will ask all the same shaming questions. Why was there not more outrage? Did people not know or merely not care? Why “didnt they” act? But there is another comparison. For Aleppo has received the treatment Putin once meted out to Grozny, when Chechnya dared rebel against Moscow. In 1999 it too was bombed into what the UN called a devastated wasteland, an act of destruction tolerated because it was deemed to be taking place on Russias turf.

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