The behavior of Russia in the last few weeks has echoes of some of the uglier moments of the Cold War, an era of proxy battles that ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Obama, fresh from a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin this month, wondered aloud whether the Russian leader was content living with a “constant, low-grade conflict.” His reference was to Ukraine, but he could have been addressing any of the arenas where Mr. Putin has reveled in his new role as the great disrupter of American plans around the globe.
“It seems to me we have Mr. Putin’s answer,” said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a coming book, “A World in Disarray.” “He’s answered in the affirmative. Low-grade conflict is his thing. And the question is how directly or indirectly we introduce costs.”
None of these conflicts have, in fact, cost Mr. Putin very much. Cyberpower in particular is tailor-made for a country in Russia’s circumstances — a declining economy with the gross domestic product of Italy. It is dirt cheap, hard to trace to a specific aggressor and perfect for sowing confusion, which may be the limits of Mr. Putin’s goals.
The bigger question confronting American intelligence officials, though, is whether the Russian president has a grander scheme at work. So far, their conclusion is probably not. Mr. Putin’s moves, they argue in background conversations, are largely tactical, intended to bolster his international image at a moment he has plenty of troubles back home.
Full story in article.