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The coldest warrior

Most people made up their mind about Vladimir Putin soon after he became Russian President in April 2000. To do this they did not need to exercise the arcane skills of Kremlinologists. They simply switched on their televisions and took a look at him. There he was, a pugnacious little fellow with an impassive face, ever ready to take offence. His fists were habitually clenched and he exuded a barely contained fury, visibly conveying his restlessness to get things done fast and precisely in accordance with his commands. It is an impression that has lasted.

Which is why we should be in little doubt as to who has orchestrated the recent and audacious acts of Russian belligerence. Putin has pulled off the gloves in the past few months. His submariners have planted Russia's flag on the Arctic ocean bed, signalling a determination to secure national rights to oil and gas exploitation there. Russian war planes recently infringed British airspace; they had to be escorted out of it by RAF fighters.

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