Putin pursues several goals with his invasion of Ukraine. Showing the Americans how little he cares what they think is always personally gratifying and politically useful. Distracting the people of Russia from the plummeting value of the rouble is also an important goal.
And there is something else. In his efforts to preserve the Federation intact, Putin has alienated the Russian extreme nationalists (or neo-Nazis). The neo-Nazis hated Putin for pandering to the Chechens, for paying trillions of roubles to Chechnya and Dagestan so that they don’t try to leave the federation, for refusing to require entrance visas from non-Slavic neighboring republics, for permitting a huge non-Slavic immigration into Russia, for punishing xenophobic statements that endanger the Federation with a prison term.
However, in these last few weeks, the neo-Nazis have developed a guarded warmth in their discussions of Putin’s most recent actions. The official discourse about Ukraine that is coming out of Kremlin has every ingredient to gladden the heart of a neo-Nazi.