Russian President Vladimir Putin brings to mind a drunken college fraternity member, always ready for the next road trip to get revenge.
It seemed like what the world should expect from a shirtless tiger.
It was unclear as the weekend approached whether Putin would seek an economic war with the West, which he would inevitably lose, or send tanks into the Ukraine.
No one expected NATO to intervene if Russian forces invade, most likely disguised as a peacekeeping force, but even poorly armed Gazans had made Israel’s invasion a living hell.
After the Kremlin ignored warning after warning, provoking serious sanctions from the US and NATO, Putin appeared to finally stop believing the propaganda thousands of his paid minions had been posting on Web sites.
He reacted by imposing a vague ban on the import of food, vegetables and fruit from the United States and European countries.
Putin’s government said it would identify the goods covered by the ban on Thursday or Friday.
Jokes were circulating in Russia about which foot the government wanted to shoot itself in.
A Russian economist who had fled Moscow said no details were released immediately because as in so many earlier cases Putin had no firm plan.
“They are searching for some way to respond, and so far have not found a way,” said economist Sergei M. Guriev.
What would happen on the border, where Putin had massed thousands of troops, also was up in the air. The Ukrainian military was close to seizing control of the last major eastern city held by Moscow’s proxies.
Many analysts said Putin was living on the edge, and if the conflict escalates Russia would be harmed much faster than Europe.
“Russia’s economy would collapse faster and quicker” than Europe’s, Russian market analyst Chris Weafer told the New Republic.
In fact, the magazine warned that just as the fall of the Berlin Wall caught many by surprise, Putin might fall and his opponents need to be prepared for the chaos that could produce.
The ex-KGB agent has disdained ideology so it is not clear what would take his place, lacking even the 70 years of state communism that held the Soviet Empire together.
Time after time the Soviets lost battles with enemies, such as Germany, who had far fewer weapons and troops. Only the intervention of its capitalist enemies kept it in power and the fear of a nuclear war that would destroy the planet.
Economically the masses suffered as the Soviet belief that capitalism would eventually collapse proved illusory.
As was said by the legendary cartoonist Walt Kelly, Russians needn’t fear, “the shortages will be divided among the peasants.”