President Vladimir Putin accused Western spies on Thursday of plotting to undermine his rule and "destabilize" Russia before elections by using public organizations for their own goals.
The man is not normal by any standards we understand. And he has lots of nukes.
Pucker factor still pretty high, I must say.
UPDATE: If Putin thinks NATO is a threat pushing east, just what does he think China is doing in Russia's "near abroad in Central Asia?
Until recently, Central Asia played only a modest role in world politics, a reflection of its economic weakness, domestic problems, and distrust of integration. Russia’s presence in the region as the primary political mediator and economic partner was incontestable. In the last few years, though, China’s growing economic interest in Central Asia has come to be seen in Moscow as a threat to its influence. Russia is watching closely the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, which would give Beijing the dominant role and could supplant the Eurasian Economic Union. With Kazakhstan the core state in any integration project in the region, it looks set to become the frontlines of the tussle between China and Russia for regional influence.
Yeah, Russia's treatment of Ukraine as an illegitimate state that really belongs to Moscow won't affect Khazakstan's diplomacy toward China.
And what happens when China starts calling huge chunks of Russia's Far East their own "near abroad" unjustly lost?
Remember, Russia has just 5 years until a 20-year treaty freezing their border dispute with China ends.
What if China has internal problems that require a foreign victory to defend their monopoly of power, and Peking decides it is safer to pick on Russia while they've alienated everyone but Venezuela rather than America and our powerful allies in the western Pacific?
Yet Russia remains fixated on a largely defanged European NATO.
Russia needs to join the West before they've alienated the West too much to join us.
UPDATE: Russia continues to seek territorial gains and economic pains:
Russian-backed separatists are planning a fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine that could come within a matter of months, warns retired General Wesley Clark, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.
Actually, he thinks the window could begin after Orthodox Easter on April 12th.
As for the pains, Russia even finds they need to sell energy to Ukraine, which was a surprise to the West when the European Commission asked Russia to cut prices:
The Russian response — requesting Gazprom lower its prices for Ukraine — hints that Russia is seeking to cool tensions in the region to wriggle out of international sanctions as it attempts to pull itself out a deep economic downturn.
Russia's GDP is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to fall by 3% this year and by a further 1% in 2016 sanctions and a collapse in oil prices have dented the country's prospects.
The pain extends to Russia's troops:
Russia has [apparently] brought in over 40,000 combat and support troops from over a hundred different units. These troops are usually brought in for a few months, or as many as six months, then sent back to their home base and replaced by another unit. This is causing problems in Russia because many of the troops involved are conscripts and when these are killed the official story is that they died from something other than combat.
I mentioned this before, I know. What I didn't mention is that although this procedure may serve to spread out casualties and hide the deployment of units; by mixing up men from units all across the Russian empire, the Russians commit units without unit cohesion. This increases casualties. During the Iraq War, opponents of the war ignorantly droned on about a "backdoor draft" when we (legally) extended the active duty time of soldiers scheduled to leave the service while their unit was deployed.
By keeping those soldiers in their deployed unit until the unit rotated home, the unit was more effective at fighting and in avoiding casualties.
While it appears that Russia has endured hundreds of deaths and many more wounded, the number is surely higher than it would have been if Putin had sent complete combat units into Donbas.
So we have more reasons to understand why Russia can't have nice things.
UPDATE: Putin's people really are clueless:
The Russian Foreign Ministry said "propagandists" working on orders from Washington were producing "Russophobic lampoons, carefully building an image of Russia as an enemy, instilling hatred of anything Russian in ordinary people."
Yeah, there is that ongoing invasion of Ukraine thing even as they deny even being involved. (But boy, there sure are a lot of fatal training accidents in the army the last year! Safety officers need to be fired, eh?)
And don't forget threatening us with nukes. Yeah, there is that, too, as part of an alternate explanation for why we worry about Russia.