Constrained by the very real limits of Russian economic and even military strength, but liberated by the divisions and often timidity of the West, Putin has unleashed a campaign of disinformation, subversion and intimidation. He does not appear to expect to win friends, but instead, like a global bully, wants to look too formidable, too unpredictable, too dangerous to ignore. His hope is that this persuades enough of the West that it has to make a deal with him and accept his terms.
This has terrible long-term costs and risks, though. Putin risks making Russia into an international pariah, betraying many Russians’ hopes that they can find a peaceful place in the global community.
The readiness of Western commentators and politicians to portray Russia as an unmitigated hotbed of hostility and intrigue — ignoring the very real positive aspects of the country and its culture — is not some cynical Western plot, as the more unhinged Russian propagandists claim. Rather, it is largely a depressing byproduct of a campaign of deliberate destabilization. Hopes that a month of football can dispel this miasma seem pretty unrealistic.
Mark Galeotti is a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and the author of “The Vory: Russia’s super mafia.” The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.