It's easy to look at 2016 as the year Vladimir Putin won.
It's tempting to believe that the Kremlin leader is on the cusp of victory in his undeclared war with the West.
With a not-insignificant assist from the Kremlin, populism, xenophobia, and antiestablishment fury are on the rise, threatening European unity and the transatlantic bond.
Western fatigue with Middle East interventions has allowed Moscow to take the lead role in Syria, undermining the West's interests, and prop up Bashar al-Assad -- making Russia the region's dominant power.
Putin's goal of establishing a privileged sphere of influence -- which is just a polite way of saying imperial domination over his neighbors -- appears within grasp.
Sanctions over Russia's aggression in Ukraine appear to be hanging by a thread.
And with the West distracted and divided, former Soviet states like Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova -- who are seeking to escape Moscow's orbit -- rarely seemed so vulnerable.
In many ways, the past year handed Putin a perfect storm.
It was the year that Western angst and malaise from the 2008 financial crisis, the subsequent euro crisis, and the migrant crisis crested and dovetailed with a concerted Russian campaign to undermine Western institutions.
So, like an international guerrilla fighter, Putin has proven adept at the politics of destruction.
But destroying is not always the same as winning. In fact, it often contains within it the seeds of future defeats.