But what if the Western powers no longer have the will to contain, weaken, and defeat those who seek conquest over commerce? What if Putin is reading an entirely different playbook, one that tells him there’s no way France and Great Britain (among others) have the will or capability they once had to thwart Russian imperial ambitions? He of course believes the United States will not respond meaningfully.
Putin knows that power is not exclusively contained in economic potential, that human will matters, and right now he looks at a West that seems — to all outside appearances — to be completely flummoxed by a military power that utterly disregards the international “norms” they’ve so carefully cultivated yet have neither the intent nor power to enforce.
And who can blame him? He sees a Europe that will take the knee to anybody who keeps their energy supplies coming. He sees an America that would rather turn itself into a police/security state rather than destroy the regimes that are the source of the Islamic terrorists that plague it.
He sees an American President who believes the role of his country and himself should be to take a back seat to the consensus wishes of the world, rather than assert any national interests or concerns.
In short, he sees a bunch of naked emperors, and sees that he has nothing to fear from them.