WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?: One of the things that most surprised me about the Iraq endeavor is that the Russians played a very strong hand very poorly. Sure, they're heavily invested in Iraq and stand to lose a considerable amount of money now that Saddam's regime has fallen, but from the very beginning it must have been obvious to any intelligent observer that there was no other possible outcome once Bush made up his mind to attack. It's phenomenal to me that Putin could have anticipated any other conclusion. That said, I don't understand why he was so eager to squander the goodwill that had been built up between himself and Bush over the past couple of years, and between Russia and America in general over the past decade.
He should have realized that his best hope for recovering any portion of the money that Saddam owed him was to give America political support during our war effort in exchange for a committment on our part to honor some portion of the debts. Russia has it's own problems with Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, and it would have been politically easy (internationally, not necessarily internally) for Putin to have at least remained neutral, as China has largely done. Instead, he decided to line up with the Axis of Weasels and is now basically stuck with the worst possible scenario: no chance of debt repayment, and a strained relationship with the United States. All for nothing.
Instapundit has more along the same line. It's quite mystifying to me. Glenn suggests that Putin may have been ill-advised by incompetent Russian generals. Who knows. Russia has a lot more going for it than France does because Russia is a powerful international player apart from its seat at the UN Security Council. I expect that although we will move to punish France, we will be more conciliatory towards Russia for precisely this reason. Russia will be useful to us in the future, but France is now basically worthless.