1) Dick waving. If you wave it about and nobody slaps it down it makes other people afraid of your ability. If you can showcase your strength it increases your political capital. It's a gamble though, if the UN throws a fit, ham-strings Russia, cock-blocks Putin, and generally beats down Russia for their illegal actions, then Russia will have just showed how weak they are.
2) The opportunity presented itself. There's the thinnest veneer that they're "protecting ethnic Russians". And since the Ukrainian government is going through tormoil, it's not like they're going to have an organized response.
3) Resources, power. This is the old-school thinking but it still applies. Cimera simply has value. Russia now has it.
But could Putin and other politicians in Russia be so shirt sighted that they would risk labeling Russia and starting the next Cold War for this simplistic short term goal?
Whoa, wait a minute.
they would risk labeling Russia
Risk labeling Russia as what?
"Someone that will unilaterally invade a sovereign nation" The USA is way ahead of them there.
"A war-mongering beast that'll invade your country if you even think about revolting " Arguably that stabalizes the region
"A powerful political player that can disreguard international laws" That just makes them more powerful.
As for risking a COLD war, hell yeah Putin would risk that. Hell, he'd welcome it. He's KGB. The cold war made him, the soviet government (and the federal government of the USA) a hell of a lot more important, powerful, and needed. It's the hot war that nobody wants.
Sure, I don't think any really costly sanctions will be applied to Russia again, but I think from now on Russia will simply be tolerated because other countries still have to do business with it.
So even you can see that there's really not going to be any actual negative impact to Russia.
No one will harbor any illusions about Putin's regime from now on.
Right, Putin is solidifying his position. No one will question that he is running the show. He probably won't even have to step down for that other guy to pretend to be president.
Are you starting to realize why he did it now?