In the space of a few months, Putin has managed to change the conversation. The Kremlin no longer looks like it is out of ideas and running out of time. Putin’s approval rating is at 83 percent. . . . And if you believe the polls, the public—including that vaunted “creative class” that not long ago was clamoring for more pluralism and for a “Russia Without Putin”—appears to be on board. . . .
And what longtime Kremlin-watcher Mark Galeotti calls the “consensual hallucination” that has sustained Putin’s undisputed rule appears to be restored. But as Walter Russell Mead argued in a recent piece in The American Interest, the patriotic wave Putin is riding is similar to a drug dependency. “He needs triumphs abroad to vindicate and justify his rule and his repression at home, and foreign-policy victories are like cocaine when it comes to their impact on public opinion: the buzz of each hit soon wears off, leaving only the craving for another and larger dose,” Mead wrote.
And cocaine is expensive.