Russia is currently winning the Game of Empire. It has taken Crimea and it is closing in on Eastern Ukraine. Whether or not more will be invaded, no one can tell.
We are not accustomed to leaders of great states who go for broke. Meet a leader of a great state who is going for broke. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a man of history.
In the Soviet Union, the balance of terror left space for small wars that were “in the national interest.” National interest included invading Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 to remind the citizens that they were Communists. The West backed dictators in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere to remind them that they were anti-Communists.
The balance of terror between Russia and the West still exists. It has moved from the background to the anxious foreground in the last two months. A national interest war, absent from big country politics for 40 years, now brews on the border of Russia and Ukraine.
Russia is rearranging its neighborhood and there is no prospect of a coherent response from West. It is complicated. France has arms contracts; Britain likes the Russian money that flows into London, and Germany and Italy get about a third of their gas from Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.