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Just a Thug.

Putin's grand plans.

A small man rules a big country.

Thug:  a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.
A cutthroat or ruffian; a hoodlum.
Listening to the experts' opinions about Putin and his strategic plans and what his next move will be, one can think that Putin is a reincarnation of professor Moriarty. 
Let me state it in the simplest of terms:  Vladimir Putin is a thug. That is about it.
So what is the explanation for his actions?  There is a wise saying:  follow the money.
Putin's personal fortune.
Putin is stealing money from Russia.

$1 Billion Putin's palace on the Black Sea.

Many experts of Russian government and politics agree that, without question, Putin has used his last decade of absolute power and wholehearted corruption to stash away a vast personal fortune estimated at more than $70 billion.  A fortune that simply does not jibe with the humble, man-of-the-people, portrait Putin paints of himself.”
Where did all the money come from?
“His most vocal critics assert that Putin has leveraged his power to acquire a 4.5% ownership stake in the natural gas producer, Gazprom, a 37% stake in the oil company, Surgutneftegas, and a 50% stake in Swiss oil-trader, Gunvor.  Gazprom alone does over $150 billion in revenue annually, Gunvor does $80 billion and Surgutneftegas over $20 billion.  Using their most recent market capitalizations, Putin’s combined ownership stakes would give him a personal net worth of $70 billion!”
More about the Emperor Putin money.
Putin amassed wealth.

Putin's yacht

“Putin is known to sport a $150,000 Patek Philippe watch on most occasions and his total collection has been valued at $700,000.  He also has full access to a $40 million ultra-luxury yacht that features a wine cellar, Jacuzzi, helipad and outdoor barbecue area.  In terms of living accommodations, Putin has access to 20 mansions throughout the world including a lavish ski lodge and Medieval castle.  The crown jewel of his property portfolio is a $1 billion palace overlooking the Black Sea that he allegedly owns through an anonymous trust.  Furthermore, Putin makes frequent use of 15 Presidential helicopters and more than 40 private jets, many of which feature gold plated interiors.
Russia does not get respect from the West?
A distinguished professor and “expert” on Russia, Steven Cohen, is accusing the west of not respecting Russia's interests and making threatening moves like accepting Eastern European countries into the European common market and NATO.  Please note the word “accepting”. My understanding is that these countries ASKED to be accepted.  Asked, voluntarily.  These former communist countries and former Soviet Republics did not want to align with Russia.  They have had enough of Russia.  They have had enough of the Soviet Union.  These small countries fear and distrust Russia (meaning Putin).
Dear professor:  These countries are not just pieces of property that are owned by the West or by Russia.  These are independent countries that follow the will of their people.  These people wanted to be part of Europe, not part of the Russian “Empire”.These countries are not pawns as you, dear professor, would think.
There is a consensus that taking Crimea is harmful to Russia and it's economy in the long run.  So why did he (Putin) swallow Crimea?
There are strategic reasons like the Black Sea Russian Fleet.
But there may be one simple reason.  Just keep in mind that Putin is not a chess player.  Putin is a thug. 
He blew over $50 Billion in Sochi at a time when the Russian economy is in the tank.
Many oligarchs lost a ton of money on this “enterprise”.
Poverty in Russia is growing.  Putin made a lot of Russia's people unhappy.  He is just a plain scared thug that needed to divert peoples' attention, to play in Russia's nationalism.  Nationalism that he, Putin, supported and encouraged through state-controlled media.  Now Putin got to feed Russian militant nationalism he helped to grow.
Also Professor Cohen accepts as a given that Russia has to confront the aggressive behavior of the US and Europe.  Why?  Former soviet block countries got integrated into the West economy and are doing just fine. 
Compare Ukraine and Poland:  The 2013 population of Poland is approximately 38,300,000 people, with a total surface of 120,696.41 square miles. 
The Ukraine population of 45,593,300 people, which represents an increase of 140,018 people compared to 2011, with a total area of 233,000 square miles. 
Former Soviet republics

Former parts of Russian/Soviet Empire.

And yet look at the statistics.
Ukraine output by 1999 had fallen to less than 40% of the 1991 level.  Ukraine's dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the lack of significant structural reform have made the Ukrainian economy vulnerable to external shocks.  It depends on imports to meet about three-fourths of its annual oil and natural gas requirements and 100% of its nuclear fuel needs.
Poland - Ukraine GDP
$814.1 billion (2012 est.)
$797.8 billion (2011 est.)
$764.7 billion (2010 est.)
note: data are in 2012 US dollars
$340.7 billion (2012 est.)
$340.2 billion (2011 est.)
$323.4 billion (2010 est.)
note: data are in 2012 US dollars
For the last 20 years Putin's people ruled Ukraine.  And Russia likes it this way because it can keep Ukraine and other satellites vulnerable and dependent on Russia. 
Why does Russia want to confront the West?  Why is Russia different, or want to be different?
Putin friends are thugs.

Putin's friends.

Remember:  Putin is a thug.  Follow the money.  70 billion is not enough.  Putin, the emperor, wants it all. 
Look at who Putin's friends are:  Iran, Syria, North Korea...countries ruled by thugs like Putin.
Russia sells whatever they these thugs want: nuclear weapons technology, conventional weapons - Putin does not care. As long as he and his cronies get paid.
So what is happening is that the unscrupulous gang of rogue states like Russia, North Korea, Iran and a few others are blackmailing the world in order to get a ransom:  power and money.
Putin's “chess” game is simple:  the more turmoil in the world, the more expensive oil and natural gas, the more money and power he gets.  Just a thug.
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