With the Sochi Winter Olympics now in progress, it is time to turn a spotlight on the Russian state dominated for some time by the figure of its current President, Vladimir Putin.
I took the thread title from an Economist editorial, the main thrust of which was that the Russian economy was built on sand - totally dependent on high oil and gas prices, which may well fall quickly with the new fracking boom in progress. Putin expresses contempt for fracking (and he may even have a point) but ultimately he may regret his words.
To that I add the failure of Russia to built on the technology sector it had under the USSR. I remember the first SLR camera I ever bought was a Zenit-E, and apparently the company still exists, but does it export cameras as a global brand? Are Ilyushin still exporting aircraft? Do they rival Boeing or Airbus? Where is the Russian Huawei? Lada cars, a joke in their day, but so was Japanese manufacturing back in the 1960s, and Chinese/ Hong Kong manufacturing back in the 1970s. Where are Lada now?
After the dismal incompetence and corruption of the Yeltsin years, perhaps Russia did need some state-building and leadership. But Putin seems to have chosen as his model the old Soviet Union, with the worst features of Tsarism thrown in: authoritarian, repressive, conservative, dominating rather than co-operative, and inward-looking.
Now Mr Putin is duplicating a Third World despot - a massive spending spree on an Olympic Games the country can ill afford. The Economist compares Russia 2014 with the USSR 1980 - the year the US electorate was fearful enough to elect Ronald Reagan, who told them that the USSR was surpassing their country militarily, just as JFK told the Americans in 1960. The USSR held a triumphalist Olympics in 1980 in Moscow, yet by the end of the decade, Communism was over, and three years later, the Soviet Union as a Russian Empire was gone, too.
The signs are there - that the Russian people want to be free from government interference and bureaucracy, desire more intellectual freedom and a broadened horizon. Putin cannot deliver, and if incomes start to fall as the decade continues, the Russia of Vladimir Putin may fade into history, just as the Soviet Union did. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.