Why, after all, did Obama delay responding to Putin’s infiltration, military occupation and seizure of Crimea in the first place? In order to provide Putin with a path to de-escalation, “an offramp,” the preferred White House phrase.

An offramp? Did they really think that Putin was losing, that his invasion of Crimea was a disaster from which he needed some face-saving way out? And that the principal object of American diplomacy was to craft for Putin an exit strategy?

It’s delusional enough to think that Putin — in seizing Crimea, threatening eastern Ukraine, destabilizing Kiev, shaking NATO, terrifying America’s East European allies and making the West look utterly helpless — was actually losing. But to imagine that Putin saw it that way as well and was waiting for American diplomacy to save him from a monumental blunder is totally divorced from reality.

After Obama’s Russian “reset,” missile-defense retreat and Syria comedown, Putin had already developed an undisguised disdain for his U.S. counterpart. Yet even he must have been amazed by this newest American flight of fantasy. Putin reclaims a 200-year-old Russian patrimony with hardly a shot and to wild applause at home — Putin’s 72 percent domestic popularity is 30 points higher than Obama’s — and America’s leaders think he needs rescue?