Far from being a mystery and an enigma—to use Churchill's language—today's Russia now stands revealed as a bully, wrapped in nationalism and cloaked with its leader's arrogance. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's adventure in Georgia has produced shock and awe at the sight of tanks, planes and warships mobilized against a small neighbor. But Russia has always been a great mythmaker—from setting up Potemkin villages in the 18th century to fomenting great fear that Sovietism would conquer the world after 1945. Here are 10 of the biggest myths about today's Russia:
MYTH 1. Putin is the big winner of the incursion into Georgia. Yes, Putin has shown who runs Russia, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been sidelined. And yes, Putin won the unanimous support of both houses of the Russian Parliament for the invasion and annexation of parts of Georgia. But he has united Europe after the years of division created by George W. Bush. In 2003, an emergency European Council split down the middle on Iraq. In 2008, European leaders came in behind French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the cautiously strong line advocated from the early days of the crisis by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Putin could not even get the support of his erstwhile ally, China, as Beijing looked with horror at Russia's endorsement of busting up frontiers agreed upon by the United Nations.