Given the political turmoil in the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, President Putin is likely to play possum well into the spring of 2018. Put simply, there is no book for Putin to provoke the Atlantic Alliance by a military "move of greatness" in the Euro-Atlantic region – say in the Arctic. Furthermore, he needs Trump's support for an end game to the Syrian civil war that will bring about the de facto victory of the Assad regime.

The bottom line: Above all, there is the "tell" that the Russian government is not mobilizing for war, as seen by the decision to cut back in military spending this year in response to lower global petroleum and gas prices — a key source of national income. A surge in military spending would be very ominous, recalling events in Hitler's Germany in 1939 and Japan in 1940 and 1941.

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