I’m not ready to drop my belief that current Russia isn’t really just the USSR awaiting it’s resurfacing, stronger than ever. But I’ve significantly re-thought that, at least. There is a part of me that listens to Putin (and I’ve dug deep and listened to very extended speeches and interchanges of his), and I’m not willing to dismiss a possibility that he really is NOT out for world conquest, but that he’d be very happy to fully entrench Mother Russia within a footprint he deems appropriate to language, culture, and ethnicity. He actually seems to be grateful for the previous balance of power, in a sense, that the Cold War brought, with the old M.A.D. philosophy showing us that it was in our best national interests to drop the tension level considerably and take Rodney King’s advice to just all get along.
I’m also not convinced that Assad is the monster the western press has convinced us he is, or who’s REALLY dropping chemical weapons across Syria, etc. He may very well be, but I’m not at all convinced. Thus, Russia’s intervention there could be in Russia’s own best interests in that region – to finally stabilize what we have been unwilling/unable to stabilize (with emphasis, I believe, on the “unwilling” part).
Thus, given Uncle Joe’s provocative cyber-warfare comments, I can’t say that I blame Putin either in his returned threat, or his escalation on the extent of the potential conflict. In no way does that mean I admire the guy, or that I no longer see him as a threat. I doubt I’d ever drop my assessment of him as a very practical and cold-blooded individual, out for whatever motivates him. It’s just that I’m not so certain that world domination is his motivator. But fear of the United States certainly is a reasonable response on his part, and therefore a motivator at this point, given particularly this Administration’s actions. We’ve got a textbook case of how to royally screw up a foreign relations policy in 7½ years. Putin probably IS hoping (and praying, if he does pray) that Trump is elected. He probably believes he could deal with Trump on a mutually respectful basis. We certainly already know what he thinks and feels about Hillary!