Putin just blinked

After Putin spoke, the ruble rose 1 percent against the dollar, demonstrating just how much global markets will continue to reward his conciliation and punish his aggression. It has not been pretty. Putin has had to spend billions propping up the ruble and making up for lost foreign investment. Reuters reported that Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told some attendees in St. Petersburg that the sanctions are “causing serious consequences for our economy,” which could soon be in recession.

And, because Putin’s aggression in Crimea has spurred Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Putin rushed to Beijing to conclude a natural gas supply deal with China. The price China extracted is secret and experts “suspect Putin dropped the price of gas significantly for China in a desperate maneuver to ensure a steady cash flow for Gazprom in the face of sinking revenue and Western sanctions,” The Washington Post reported. “ ‘There’s something fishy in the contract,’ ” said Mikhail Krutikhin, an energy analyst at RusEnergy, suggesting that Russia got a bad bargain. Putin blinked.

Let’s add it up: Putin’s seizure of Crimea has weakened the Russian economy, led to China getting a bargain gas deal, revived NATO, spurred Europe to start ending its addiction to Russian gas and begun a debate across Europe about increasing defense spending. Nice work, Vladimir. That’s why I say the country Putin threatens most today is Russia.