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Paper Tiger Putin

The Failure of Russia’s Anachronistic Antagonism

A woman holds a portrait of Russia's President Vladimir Putin during celebrations on the main square of the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 21, 2014. Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not as strong as he might seem, or, more important, as he might hope. Although Russia supports fighters in Ukraine, invaded Georgia in 2008, sold missile systems to Iran, and recently threatened Denmark and Lithuania with nuclear war, it is, in reality, a muted and restrained power operating in a system that no longer supports grand-scale intervention. If anything, Russia’s recent military and diplomatic adventures have revealed its desperate weakness. Meanwhile, its shift toward a self-defeating utilization of new forms of power (covert warfare, cyber conflict, and coercive energy policy) demonstrates the limitations it faces in coercing its neighbors.

FROM BAD TO WORSE

Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict has not gone the way Putin intended. Betting that the West would decline to help new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Moscow attempted to strangle Ukraine’s economy, nullifying the bailout package and the gas deal that the two countries

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