Although unflinching in his convictions and ultimate objectives, Putin is not a great strategist. He is instead a clever tactician. His sport and passion is judo, where you win by watching your opponent like a hawk, probing for a weakness in order to catch your adversary off balance — then going for it at lightning speed with all you have.
Although he is dangerous, and could be lethal, Putin is not invincible. He is stubborn but not mad. His mind and his policies can be changed — not by sweet talk or by shaming him as a 19th century throwback, but rather by a White House that is firm and consistent, but also open-minded, alert and flexible.
The most effective model might be the way President Reagan handled the Soviet Union: a combination of patience and resolution, but also flexibility and attention to any potential opening for cooperation that would genuinely advance U.S. national interests. Most of all, the next American president should be guided by Reagan’s unshakable conviction that the only way to fundamentally change Russia’s policies is to create an inducement for domestic reforms. And that can be done only by increasing the cost of domestic repression and foreign aggression.