If you have a spare half hour do listen to this Brookings Institute podcast: [If nothing else then from about 41 minutes onward in particular.]
"Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (and abroad)
With recent events in Ukraine and beyond, many policymakers and foreign policy analysts are asking what motivates Russian President Vladimir Putin. What shapes his policy decisions and how he views the outside world? Most importantly, officials in Washington and European capitals are left asking what Putin wants and how far is he willing to go. The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge to European security and the global world order in decades. Russia’s 8,000 nuclear weapons underscore the huge risks of not understanding who Putin is and what his aspirations are for himself and the people of Russia.
On February 18, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings hosted a discussion with Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy, authors of the new and expanded edition of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. The authors explored Putin’s motivations and methods and dispelled potentially dangerous misconceptions about Putin."
Putin is a KGB operator through and through. He knows all about planning an operation. He has plans of action, but included in them are also alternative contingency plans to deal with problems is things do not work out quite as expected; he is therefore very difficult to predict.
Since coming to power he has created a unique system fusing intelligence with politics and the military and security branches of power. In the current Russian/Ukrainian hybrid war this system has come into its own.
This hybrid war is the operation of Putin's life...and he is relishing in it...loving it....
Also from about 1 hour 00 minutes onward into the podcast ..a brilliant, brutal description of how Putin views the rest of the western world and the relationship between the greater and lesser countries of the western world - whether they are truly sovereign or not. If you understand this, Putin [and Russians] become easier to read..
Western politicians and media continue to conveniently delude themselves. The Ukrainian crisis is not just about some disgruntled separatists in a far corner of the country. It is a 'spetsoperatsiya' inspired by, organised, funded and controlled by Putin an a handful of his colleagues. It is replete with 'maskirovka', lies, false trails, misleading declarations...at its core is the absolute need not to reveal its true aims. However, it is most reasonable to assume these are entirely destructive - to destabilise Ukraine, trash its institutions and turn it into a failed state.. Having encouraged Ukraine to join the western club, western nations now have an absolute obligation to prevent Putin accomplish his aims..
p.s. If you like listening to podcasts...then check out this... in which the brilliant Peter Pomarantsev explains why he may be Ukrainian too..