Well, it sure has been one educational year.
Three months ago, many of our suspicions were confirmed when a British investigation concluded that Kremlin agents assassinated Russian defector Aleksandr Litvinenko in London and that Vladimir Putin probably gave the green light.
One month ago, some more of our suspicions were confirmed when the Panama Papers revealed that Vladimir Putin's close associates were siphoning billions of dollars out of Russia through shady shell companies.
And this week, yet another long-held suspicion was given an official imprimatur when Spanish Judge Jose de la Mata issued arrest warrants for top Russian officials and close Putin cronies in a decade-old investigation into organized crime.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
No matter how much hedging, no matter how much nuance, no matter how much rationalization, and no matter how much "whataboutism" you throw into the mix, it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore what is becoming completely obvious: The Putin regime is basically a crime syndicate masquerading as a state.
Assassinations. Embezzlement. Money laundering. Arms and narcotics trafficking.
These are just its tools of statecraft.
And given this, it's not surprising that the Kremlin gets absolutely hysterical whenever Western countries use their sovereign right to enforce their own laws against Russian perpetrators.
Russian officials, most recently Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin, have accused the West of waging "lawfare" against Russia -- that is, using the law as an instrument of war.
But isn't that exactly how one would expect a crime syndicate to view law enforcement?