It is beyond the realm of possibilities that a senile Joe Biden could have outfoxed Vladimir Putin. But the results appear as though he has. Putin initially engaged in saber-rattling with Ukraine in the hopes of exacting some concessions from the West. One concern in particular was not unreasonable, namely a guarantee that Ukraine would not be brought into NATO, given the idea of a perceived national threat directly on their border. The appropriate thing would be to allay this concern over time.
However when Biden didn't bite and essentially said go ahead and invade (on a limited scale), it pulled the rug out from under Putin. Any invasion, even if ultimately successful, would clearly be costly for the Russians. Putin had probably hoped that he would gain some concessions, and then back down without losing face. Now he is stuck in a situation where he has little choice but to make good on his threats.
But if he goes forward it will be costly for the Russians, in terms of lives lost, as well as resulting further sanctions from the West. This will not sit well domestically with the Russian people which may in turn further undermine the popularity of his government. As a result Putin has gone from a relatively low-cost winning proposition to a no-win situation, perhaps leaving little choice but to go ahead with a limited invasion, as helpfully suggested by Biden, who, given pronouncements regarding Americans leaving Ukraine, may in fact have a heads up. This makes the whole situation comical, were it not for the tragedy, even a “limited” tragedy that is likely to occur for the hapless troops on the ground.
Our whole approach towards Russia since the fall of communism has been short-sighted and insensitive. Putin has some legitimate concerns regarding the Russians “stranded” in bordering countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the shaky geographical result in some regions. We should have been making some attempt to assuage such concerns, as well as ameliorating the overall situation by bringing Russia back into the West, instead of pushing them into the arms of China, which is the greatest external threat we face today. If we do not change course on this we will indeed be facing a perilous situation going forward.