One wonders about all of this, and the context within which it’s occurring.
Russia has always been aggressive toward its neighbors, and its people seem to like that.
It’s something, at least, when the economy there stinks, which it does. Pride can sometimes make up for privation, psychologically.
Russia has long been an exporter of commodity goods, and has been dependent on them for its economy. Right now, the big one is petroleum. Russia has a lot of it and will undoubtedly produce plenty into the indefinite future. But what does it do to an economy like that when oil is below $80? Do there need to be more national pride elevators to make up for what that will do? Will gnawing on another weak state make up for oil at $70?
We don’t know, and while I’m sure Putin is just as cagey as he seems, I don’t know that he does either.
Putin is reputed to be worth as much as Bill Gates, all from corruption. When Russians see their economy sinking will they resent it, or will they be like some pre-Revolutionary people who were just fine with Tsarist grandeur even if they, themselves, had nothing?
I don’t, for a moment, doubt that Putin would march right into Berlin if he thought he could. Russia’s other historic economic prop has been looting conquered peoples, and Berlin, even Warsaw, would provide a lot of opportunities…at least until the loot ran out as it did when the Soviet Union went bust.
Putin will seize eastern ukraine as sure as he seized Crimea, and the Putin supporters in the world (and on CAF) will deny that ambition until it’s accomplished, and then they’ll make excuses for it. The big question is where will Putin stop, and how much sabre-rattling will he think necessary to cow the West into letting him seize more?
Personally, I don’t think we have seen the last of Putin’s conquests, nor of his threatening military moves. I think he has Obama’s number, and he knows he has two years for sure in which to take what he wants with impunity.