A chess player who only makes poor moves

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Kremlin in  Moscow, on March 24, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 24, 2014.
Many Republicans in D.C. continue to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is a strategic wiz -- "running circles around" us inept Americans -- but there's ample evidence that we're watching a grandmaster chess player who only makes misguided moves.

Russia's economy is barely growing, inflation is rising fast, and capital is pouring out of the country, the Economy Ministry said on Monday, a sign that international tensions around Ukraine are already inflicting severe economic costs. In February Russia's gross domestic product eked out growth of just 0.3 percent year-on-year, up from a revised 0.1 percent in January, Russia's Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said. Last year the economy grew by just 1.3 percent, far below initial forecasts, but there had been hopes that growth would rebound this year. Instead Russia's economic performance is deteriorating further as the international tensions around Ukraine lead capital to flee Russia.

Behold, the Russian genius that continues to amaze American conservatives.
Kevin Drum added a related recap of recent events last night.

Last week President Obama announced sanctions on high-ranking Russians. He also signed an executive order allowing him to impose sanctions on Russian industry. France has threatened to cancel the sale of two warships to the Russian navy. The G8 has effectively kicked Russia out of the club. Ukraine has cut off electricity to Crimea. The countries on Russia's borders are increasingly united against their next-door neighbor. The Russian economy, hardly robust in the first place, has already begun to tank. Ukraine has agreed to sign an association agreement with the European Union, precisely the action that Vladimir Putin so desperately tried to head off last year -- and which triggered the Maidan protests that brought down the Ukrainian government.

And Putin's reward for all of these downsides? A peninsula -- which as of yesterday is literally powerless -- that's a drain on Russian resources, and the departure of which will help ensure pro-Western candidates get elected in Ukraine for quite a while.
It's time for conservatives in the U.S. who've spent so much energy talking up Putin's brilliance to pause, reflect, and explain what in the world they were thinking.
I keep coming back to Rudy Giuliani's gushing admiration for the Russian leader three weeks ago. "Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day, right?" the failed presidential candidate said. "He decided he had to go to their parliament. He went to their parliament. He got permission in 15 minutes.... [H]e makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader."
Mitt Romney made similar comments the week before: "I think Putin has outperformed our president time and time again on the world stage." Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added last fall, "I do think Putin is playing chess and we're playing tick-tack-toe."
But with each passing day, it seems increasingly obvious that this GOP crush on Putin never made any sense at all. The Russian president launched an invasion because every other policy he tried had failed, so he acted on desperation, which in turn has cost Russia quite a bit.
Tea Party favorite Ben Carson recently argued, "Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours." Is it not yet clear how this is backwards? Russia is isolated while the U.S. is leading.