Putin thinks he's winning

Fresh off these “wins” and the chest-thumping of the Sochi Olympics, Putin feels on top of the world — and he’s kind of right. The U.S. can threaten sanctions and boot Russia from the Group of Eight and other fancy global clubs — but Russia will end up with a new piece of territory (and, judging by at least two Kremlin statements, Putin won’t be stopping at Crimea but will march onward to eastern Ukraine, home to many Russian-speaking Ukrainians) and, perhaps more importantly, with the respect of the west…

Challenged by a protest movement around his return to the presidency in early 2012, Putin emerged more paranoid than ever. He blamed those protests squarely on the U.S. state department, and remains convinced that, as, in his view, it did to despots from Egypt to Libya, Washington is working to unseat him. That violent protests should erupt in Ukraine, where Russia saw a U.S. hand in the Orange Revolution of 2004-05, didn’t help. The sight of U.S. officials like Victoria Nuland and John McCain strolling around the Maidan only added fuel to the fire…

The question now is whether Obama can look towards the long-term. Obama has tried to play nice with Russia, and been rebuffed at every turn. Russia will never cooperate on Syria. It will eventually try to disrupt Obama’s “reset” with Iran. Putin has turned anti-LGBT into a tool of foreign policy. Now he is sending troops into Ukraine.

Obama has made dialogue and cooperation a cornerstone of his approach to the world. But what if some countries don’t reciprocate?