Irrespective of Navalny’s health outcome, we can pretty well predict what will happen next: The Kremlin will cook up all kinds of alternative explanations for Navalny’s presumed poisoning. Almost certain will be charges that Navalny poisoned himself to get back at Putin, that the CIA slipped him the poison, or that it was those dastardly Ukrainians who did so. If necessary, Putin can raise the volume to blast the entire Russian Federation with the good news that their president (for life) is not to blame.
Perhaps the tried-and-true Putin playbook will not work this time; Russia already is sufficiently riled up — and Navalny is a sympathetic figure with a beautiful wife and daughters. Maybe Putin can no longer go to this well. But does he have other tricks up his sleeve? The smart money would bet that he does.
In retrospect, the “clown show” dossier was put together ingeniously. First, the identity of the ultimate client (DNC/Clinton) was kept secret long enough for it not to ruin the show. Second, in Steele the Russians had someone with a modicum of respectability to gain access to American government and media; and, in the media and professional bureaucracy, they had an army of Trump-haters ready to believe anything.
For the Kremlin, it all meant the Holy Grail of a sorely wounded United States.