There’s an interesting article in The New Yorker concerning the transformation of Pooty-Poot; in the late 1990s, though corruption was rampant, Pooty was able to establish and maintain strong relations with the economic players in Russia, to the extent that he accomplished the unimaginable:
Buoyed by the sharp rise in energy prices, Putin was able to do what Yeltsin had not: he won enormous popular support by paying salaries and pensions, eliminating budget deficits, and creating a growing urban middle class. It was hardly a secret that Putin had also created his own oligarchy, with old Leningrad pals and colleagues from the security forces now running, and robbing, the state’s vast energy enterprises. This almost unimaginably corrupt set of arrangements, which came to be known as Kremlin, Inc., outraged nearly everyone, but the relative atmosphere of stability, in which tens of millions of Russians enjoyed a sense of economic well-being and private liberty, provided Putin with a kind of authoritarian legitimacy.
This relative prosperity and personal freedom was, in fact, unprecedented. For the first time, millions of Russians took vacations abroad, got mortgages, bought foreign cars, remodelled their kitchens, acquired iPhones. The state was indifferent to the way people lived—what they read, where they worshipped, whom they shared a bed with.
Yet a decade later, he’d increasingly come to believe that the tzarist approach – and the battle against western decadence – was more consistent with his morphing views of history and the destiny of Russia.
And so now, instead of nurturing the business and creative classes in the big cities, he turned on them. He vilified them on TV; he weakened them with restrictions, searches, arrests, and selective jail terms.
Likewise, he began to view the west, and particularly America, with deep suspicion; no longer global partners, but enemies. Pooty is a changed man, determined to restore centralization to Russia, which he sees as essential to ensuring that his country remains safe from western decadence and weakness; a view that Obama inadvertently solidified when he arbitrarily shut down the Shuttle Transport System and effectively ended America’s dominance in space. If Pooty viewed the USA as weak to begin with, Obama confirmed it.
And so what did he stand to lose be once again annexing Crimea? Nothing; Gazprom controls the energy flow to many NATO countries, so whatever sanctions they wish to impose can be countered. As for America, Pooty doesn’t need us; we need him if we hope to continue working aboard the ISS.
And despite the fact that Russia imports 40% of its food, he’s perfectly fine with banning such imports. Many market shelves will go bare across the country, but he’ll simply blame the west. For Americans, this latest retaliatory move is likely to be beneficial; we won’t be paying $6 a pound for bacon, and chicken prices will likely fall as well. American chicken has been a hugely popular import in Russia, but Putin’s curtailed that market.