No, Vladimir Putin Is Not a Cunning Geopolitical Chess Player

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From House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers:

Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close. They’ve been running circles around us.

This kind of knee-jerk reaction is unsurprising, but it’s also nuts. Has Rogers even been following events in Ukraine lately? The reason Putin has sent troops into Crimea is because everything he’s done over the past year has blown up in his face. This was a last-ditch effort to avoid a fool’s mate, not some deeply-calculated bit of geopolitical strategery.

Make no mistake. All the sanctions and NATO meetings and condemnations from foreign offices in the West won’t have much material effect on Putin’s immediate conduct. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about this stuff: he does, and he’s been bullying and blustering for a long time in a frantic effort to avoid it. Now, however, having failed utterly thanks to ham-handed tactics on his part, he’s finally decided on one last desperation move. Not because the West is helpless to retaliate, but because he’s simply decided he’s willing to bear the cost.1 It’s a sign of weakness, not a show of strength. It’s the price he’s paying for his inability to control events.

1This is why a strong response from the West is a good idea even though it won’t have much immediate effect. Having decided that he’s willing to pay the price for his action, Putin now has to be sent the bill. It will pay dividends down the road.

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