"Putin’s provocations might have only a million to one shot of producing a nuclear event, but if he tries those provocations a million times…well, you do the math. I keep waiting for cooler heads to prevail in Moscow and thought this might have reached some kind of resolution over the summer. But that was 2500 Ukrainian deaths — and one innocent airliner — ago.
Still, I’m used to Soviet…er, sorry….Russian leaders talking about nuclear weapons, and so I’m assuming this is business as usual, circa 1980. But the fact that Putin is willing to throw away Russia’s future for the sake of a Soviet past means that this crisis is not close to being over. It also means that there is no way to deal with this crisis through negotiation: if Putin is so locked in the past that he thinks he can make nuclear threats, he’s not likely to change course now.
I also worry about one more thing, on our side rather than theirs. Putin is taking huge risks based on the idea that Barack Obama is the weakest American president in modern history. The Kremlin has plenty of reason to think so, especially after the graceless powder we took in Syria a year ago. There is no question that President Obama is among the least, uh, decisive leaders the White House has had in a long time, but even weak Presidents can only be pushed so far.
I worry that Putin, like other Soviet — sorry again, Russian, I mean Russian — leaders thinks that America is as leader-centered as Russia is, and will not understand that at some point the American foreign policy establishment will create a response that will totally surprise the Kremlin. That’s how major wars get started, but it’s not clear that Putin knows this, or cares.