State Department spokesman Sean McCormack last month made the latest Russian operations above the Arctic and in the Caribbean, dubbed "Stability 2008," sound more like a joke. Sneering at the weakness of Russia's fleet en route to Venezuela, McCormack said, "We'll see if they actually make it there. Somebody told me they had a tugboat accompanying them in case they break down along the way."
I laughed when I first read that, but then it actually filled me with dread. I think there is a quote something along the lines of a weak adversary who thinks he is strong should be feared more than a strong adversary. The strong adversary is most likely rational and predictable and will not risk provoking conflicts it can not win. Conversely, a weak adversary will be rash and impulsive, and through blissful ignorance will provoke conflicts that it can not win. In doing so, the weak adversary will inflict costs that the strong adversary rationally avoided.