From my comments to this post at The American Interest:
“President Obama views Putin as a leader who “was operating from a position of weakness.” This is right, but only if you take the long view: This type of regime is destined to fall eventually, but for the time being Putin has an 82 percent approval rating; he hardly looks or feels weak.”
No, Russia, and Poutine (I use the French spelling, because it more closely matches the Russian pronunciation) are incredibly, tactically weak.
Why did Poutine take Crimea? Because he wanted to protect the Black Sea “Fleet,” and thought it was a valuable enough asset to cause a fuss over. Have you looked at the Black Sea “Fleet”? It’s about the size of a single US Navy carrier group – minus the carrier, of course. Mark Galeotti has said he thinks it could lose a fight against the Italians. The fact that Poutine invaded another country to be certain to hold on to such an asset that is both so valuable to him he doesn’t feel he can afford to lose it, yet so weak it has no real tactical value, says volumes. It says his other assets are even worse.
The Russians fought Chechnya — and it took years to get to a standoff. The Russians fought a virtually disarmed Georgia — and it still took a week. And that’s before we talk about Afghanistan, which provides a fine illustration in the difference between withdrawing (what the US is doing), and retreating (which the USSR was forced to do, leaving tons of matériel behind).
Poutine is an Emperor without any clothes. And the photographs to match.