The myth of Putin's strategic genius

After his inauguration as president, Mr. Putin pivoted hard against Russia’s demonstrators, labeling them traitors. His tactics derailed the opposition’s momentum.

But his short-term successes have produced long-term costs. Mr. Putin’s paranoia about independent political actors nurtured a growing fear of business interests outside his oligarchical clique. Economic reform stalled, investment declined and state ownership grew.
Political stagnation also settled in. For the first two years of his third term as president, Mr. Putin’s approval rating hovered around 60 percent, his lowest ever. Only his invasion of Ukraine eventually propelled his approval rating back up.

In Ukraine, though, the crackdown on protesters failed. By the time Mr. Yanukovych tried to clear the streets by force, as the Kremlin advocated, his halfhearted attempt at strongman tactics backfired, compelling him to flee.