I have been following Putin last two decades, largely because of his stunts. The stunts on their own were not extraordinary. But when the head of a state performs such stunts, it calls for attention.

Here is a glimpse of his glorious days:

Putin overpowering a Judo Black Belt

Putin fishing in Siberia

Putin hunting

Putin riding horse

It would be interesting to know what lies within the heads of those people who liked to see the head of a modern state in those avatars.

During those days, Putin was hugely popular in Russia.

So Putin's voters have a taste for machismo. Such people would not and should not understand the importance of international diplomacy. Putin was probably constrained to counter NATO's expansion by Ukraine invasion.

One needs to pause here and ask: Why should NATO's expansion bother Kremlin? NATO is not a Russian Mafia. It is a highly reputed international institute, guided by a charter that emphasises on peace and democracy.

The original NATO charter of 4th April, 1949 is here:

Putin, apparently, does not have any official problem with that, even though some of the words or phrases used - like "democracy", "individual liberty" - might offend him.

He has issues with Article 5, presented below:

His grouse in that NATO states would set up military bases close to Russian border as part of their defense strategy. The same bases may be used for offensive purposes as well.

But then in that case Putin is imagining a situation wherein an international treaty organization would attack a sovereign state without any provocation. History does not give us any precedence.

Truth be told, NATO has expanded since 1991, Today its map, viewed from Moscow, looks scary.
Moscow is within intermediate ballistic missiles' range. From Latvia's border probably a medium range ballistic missile would be enough to reach Moscow.

During the Cold War, US used Tukey as a missile base for targetting Moscow. The distance was around 1700 Kilometers, which necessitated the use of ICBMs.

The expansion of NATO has drastically brought down the cost of attacking Moscow. However if we set aside the cost factor, widespread deployment of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles leaves every city in the world vulnerable to missile attack.

The United States launched the first SLBM in 1955. Since then it has been technically capable of pulverizing Moscow from international waters off the coast of Helsinki.

So it is not the missiles that Putin is scared of. USSR and later Russia have been living under the shadow of missiles ever since the formation of NATO. That is the geographical reality of Europe. It is the land invasion that Putin wants to safeguard against. Russia's wealth is tied to its land. It lives off its land like the Arab nations. In addition to oil and natural gas Russia exports minerals and grains in huge quantities.

Compare that with the prominent NATO nations. Germany is a major manufacturing hub. Switzerland has its banking. The UK is the undisputed king of financial services.

The Soviet imperialists understood the basic structural weaknes of the economy because of its over-dependence on land assets. They masterfully architected USSR and Warsaw Pact such that mainland Russia had a two-tier cover of Warsaw Pact allies and 14 Soviet Socialist Republics. Both were expendables.

The map shows the great political architecture:

One may argue that why a country with 6500 nuclear warheads should bother about something as primitive as land war?

The fallacy of nuclear power is that it is a power to commit mass suicide. The threat of retaliation is so real that no nation would want to take the route of nuclear 1st strike.

Anyway, poor Putin has walked into a carefully laid trap by the US. The conflict has already lasted long enough to make a dent on Russia's cash reserves. Also at $500 million a day Russia will continue to bleed. Western sanctions have made sure that the total economic damage due to the war is tremendous.

It is the same old Cold War game. The US did not have to find a new plan as Putin, an ex-KGB officer, continued to use the Soviet era playbook. The primitive method of charging in headon, with all the force and velocity, does not work anymore in the modern era.

In the 50's and 60's the US started stockpiling nuclear warheads at an unsustainably high rate. Russia, then the USSR, chased US blindly went backrupt two decades that followed. The following graph tells the interesting story in numbers:

It is interesting to note that throughout 70's and 80's the mighty US lay low as it patiently watched USSR's nuclear stockpile grow astronomically. In fact during that period US retired some of its old warheads without replacing them. It was probably busy watching Russia dig its own grave.

This time the US is having it too cool. The prolonged Ukraine war and the sanctions are together accelerating the process of economic collapse many times.