Nobody can make any mistake that Vladimir Putin is a ruthless ex-KGB achiever with a record of state murder and brutality on his watch. However, his stunning move yesterday in announcing the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria must surely make him a candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. If so, he would join the EU, Yassar Arafat and Henry Kissinger in being amongst the improbable recipients of the entertaining award. The only other person equally qualified is Tony Blair.
On a serious note, the move is also a slap to the cretinous Assad. If Assad had allowed limited political reform at the time of the 'arab spring' the terrible war could have been averted. Even now, going into the peace process, Assad's stubborn intransigence threatens to derail a deal - but with only conditional Russian backing, Assad must learn that he is now just a Russian puppet and must do as he's told. If that means splitting off a part of Sunni Syria, so be it.
If Putin's action helps broker a peace deal, cuts the flow of displaced persons to Turkey and thence to Greece, and incidentally helps save the career of Angela Merkel, he will have achieved as much as any previous recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. And if even one human life is saved, one family kept safely in their home, then it is all worth it.