Vladimir Putin’s foreign-policy flair has both electrified and horrified the world for a full decade. Since 2008, Mr. Putin has partitioned Georgia, invaded Ukraine, and annexed Crimea. He has raised Russian power and prestige to their highest levels since the Cold War. He has muscled Russia back into the Middle East while inserting himself into America’s 2016 presidential election. He has also demonstrated an unequaled ability to weaponize information and bolster Russian power on the cheap.
Breaking the rules, in other words, is Mr. Putin’s specialty. But this year he seems to be taking a more laid-back approach. The Kremlin continues to spread disinformation, and its political opponents still occasionally turn up poisoned or dead. But as U.S. policy has become more frenetic under President Trump, Russian foreign policy has become more restrained.
Mr. Putin is no Stalin ; he seeks to weaken the West rather than destroy it. From his point of view, the current situation in Europe looks promising:
Despite Mr. Putin’s successes, Russia remains weak, and its leverage over other nations is limited. China can woo its neighbors with multibillion-dollar projects like its “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative. Russia has much less to offer: If China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts.
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