Its core, the Moscow region, boasts no geographic barriers to invasion. Russia must thus expand its borders to create the largest possible buffer for its core, which requires forcibly incorporating legions of minorities who do not see themselves as Russian. The Russian government estimates that about 80 percent of Russia’s approximately 140 million people are actually ethnically Russian, but this number is somewhat suspect, as many minorities define themselves based on their use of the Russian language, just as many Hispanics in the United States define themselves by their use of English as their primary language. Thus, ironically, attaining security by creating a strategic buffer creates a new chronic security problem in the form of new populations hostile t o Moscow’s rule. The need to deal with the latter problem explains the development of Russia’s elite intelligence services, which are primarily designed for and tasked with monitoring the country’s multiethnic population.
And what price is Russia paying for this buffer? The Russians may have deluded themselves into thinking their recent bluster has halted NATO expansion, but they've only given NATO a reason to exist. Moscow achieved what may be only a temporary tactical victory at the price of strategic defeat.
Consider that NATO is no threat to Moscow. NATO's military couldn't march into Russia. It can barely support 30,000 or so semi-fighting troops in Afghanistan. Even as NATO expanded east, many in NATO debated whether the alliance was worth the effort. By the time of the Kosovo War in 1999, many wondered why NATO existes and argued that the fate of NATO hung on that war against Serbia.
And Europe is no fan of fighting in Afghansitan under the NATO banner. If European NATO countries had continued to see NATO as a body that drags Europe into wars it doesn't want to fight, NATO would not have lasted. The parallel European defense structure--a structure that America could not influence--would have eclipsed NATO.
If Russia had continued to behave like a developing ex-communist ally, NATO would have dissolved or atrophied. Instead, beginning with the 1999 march on Pristina airport after the Kosovo War to carve out a Russian occupation zone, and continuing through the Georgia Olympics War of 2008, with sabre rattling over the Baltic States, Ukraine, and European energy supplies thrown in as bonuses, Russia has given Europe a reason to keep NATO--with America in the lead--intact.
So all Russia has done with their so-called revival is alienate potential allies in NATO should the real threat to Russian territorial integrity--China--decide to act to reverse those unequal treaties that gave the far east to Russia.
But the fools in the Kremlin have figurately stripped to the waist, strutted about, and convinced themselves that they're back!
Despite the talk of a rising, rearmed, aggressive, Russia, the Russians are declining. A death rattle is not evidence of life.