In case you missed it, WRM had an essay in the Wall Street Journal yesterday on the subject of Vladimir Putin. Here’s the lede:
The most daring and acrobatic figure in Sochi this week isn’t a snowboarder; it is Vladimir Putin, whose death-defying geopolitical gamble is the hottest game in town. With more twists and turns than a bobsled race, more fancy footwork than a figure-skating final and more dips and flips than a mogul run, Russian diplomacy is a dazzling spectacle these days—and despite his considerable handicaps, Mr. Putin is skating rings around his clumsy and clueless opponents in Washington and Brussels.The Russian president’s biggest problem is simple: Post-Soviet Russia is a weak state. Take away its gas and oil resources, nuclear arsenal and Cold War-era intelligence networks, and there is not much of a there there. With an economy the size of Italy’s, an ethnic Russian population in decline, a booming China rising nearby and serious and sustained unrest in the Caucasus, Russia hardly has the look of a great power.But Mr. Putin can’t tell his citizens to relax and enjoy the decline; unlike Britain or France, Russia can’t let its imperial glory go. The fall of the Soviet Union is too recent, the pain of loss too great.
Read the whole thing.