A reader writes:
Putin isn't Brezhnez and he isn't Yeltsin. He's Bismarck and Richelieu. He's done a fantastic job of playing the game of international relations and centralizing the state. His every move radiates with genius and a sheer brutal will to get it done, and done in a way that benefits Russia. Seeing our own pathetic State Department try to react is akin to watching a four year old play chess with Deep Blue.
This is a little unfair to Condi. The truth is: this is part of the emerging post-Bush world in which the US is increasingly viewed as tied down in the Middle East and as having lost the moral high-ground. We will see more of this in more places, as oil-empowered rivals see weakness in America - economic fragility, energy dependence, military over-reach. The good news is that Putin is still concerned about world opinion - at least concerned enough to stop short of full-scale occupation. The bad news is: far less than he used to.