There is a popular myth that Russian president-for-life Vladimir Putin is some sort of super-genius playing multi-dimensional chess while the West is ineptly playing checkers. This is utter nonsense. Putin may be very good at managing the complicated web of corruption which is the modern Russian state, but he is no statesman. His very limited geo-political vision is to somehow try to turn third-rate Russia into the global superpower he believed it was in his youth. And if you read his public pronouncements carefully, it is painfully obvious he is shockingly dishonest, woefully ignorant, small-minded, and a potentially mortal threat to the United States and the rest of the civilized world.
Actually, to put it bluntly, Putin is a moron. For example, last year, when oil prices began their precipitous decline, he confidently predicted higher prices because “the global economy would suffer” if the price of oil fell to $80 a barrel. The biggest economies on the globe are America, China, the European Union, and Japan, and every one of them is an oil importer which benefits from lower oil prices. The only countries that suffer from lower oil prices are oil exporters such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Somehow, Putin is ignorant of not only freshman level economics, but even plain common sense. (Considering that Putin plagiarized his entire PhD dissertation in international economics, this is not so surprising.)
The Kremlin is determined to upset world stability and where possible threaten its neighbors, because it has no ability or desire to be a responsible member of the world community. In economic, diplomatic and conventional military terms, Russia is a third rate power. Its economy ranks on a par with Italy, it has no real diplomatic allies (unless you count its puppet mini-statelets of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and its military is hobbled by incompetence and riddled with corruption. Russians deeply resent their third rate status, and simply can’t understand the glaringly obvious reasons why they’re falling behind the rest of the world or why nobody needs or wants an alliance with them. Merely as one example, every single member of the Warsaw Pact (and three former Soviet republics) deserted Russia the moment the Red Army ended its occupation of their countries and made a beeline to join America-led NATO.
Russia is a bully, and a self-pitying one at that. Russians bitterly resent the fact that their former subject republics are independent states, and dream of bringing them back under Moscow’s thumb. And so the Kremlin has waged wars of aggression and occupation against its weaker neighbors Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, and seeks to destabilize the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And yet Russians believe that they are somehow the victims of external aggression. And even as the Kremlin foments war and misery in Ukraine, Russia state media broadcast nonstop the blatant lie that Russia is the innocent victim of nefarious Western conspiracies.
The Pentagon has announced plans to store enough tanks, APCs, and other hardware for 5000 troops across Eastern Europe. To put that in perspective, 5000 soldiers is a mere brigade, not an invading army, and the equipment will be spread across four to six countries. For example, in Estonia, equipment for a company, 150 men, will be put on the ground. It is a almost entirely symbolic step, by one urgently requested by our allies, and meant solely to deter further Russian military adventurism.
The entire Kremlin is full of dishonest, woefully ignorant, small minded and petty bureaucrats. These are essential qualities for advancement in the criminally thuggish Russian state. This would be of little concern to the civilized world if Russia was just another third-world kleptocracy. But the one lasting accomplishment of its Soviet predecessor was to build a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. There is a very real risk that in some future confrontation with the West, these dishonest, ignorant, small-minded and petty men will badly miscalculate and do something incredibly stupid. And their incompetent blundering may merely result in the devastation of some small Eastern European country, or it may end up being a nuclear war which spells the end of human civilization.