Weakness Feeds into Imbalance in Positive Feedback Loop
Warning: For reasons mentioned in passing below — and for other reasons not mentioned — everything the would-be superpower tries to do to project strength, is simply making it weaker in every way that is important… And more out of balance, more unstable… Leading it ever closer to war.
Russian industry is desperately short of skilled workers; that there is also a shortage, though less critical, in the supply of qualified engineers (reported by about one third of businesses surveyed by Kuvalin and Moiseev, 2014), and that the best and brightest S&T [Science and Technology] graduates continue to leave Russia in significant numbers.  Russian sources are quite open about the deficit of skilled workers and technical personnel, and increasingly have been willing to analyze the brain drain as a permanent rather than temporary or reversible phenomenon. __ Harley Balzer
The article excerpted above goes to great lengths describing Russia’s problems in science and technology, from the state-run Soviet-era Academy of Sciences through university to the fragile and threatened private sector. Russia has not only fallen behind first ranked nations in Europe and the Anglosphere, it has also slipped behind second-rank nations such as China.
Russian Demographic Decline is an Open Secret, Hotly Denied by Propagandists
The country’s most recent census, carried out in 2010, found that the national population had shrunk by nearly 3 percent in the preceding eight years, to 142.9 million.  This decline is expected to continue. In 2012, official Kremlin estimates projected that—based upon then-prevailing trend lines—the nation’s population would dwindle to just 107 million by mid-century.  More recent prognoses have reached similar conclusions. RANEPA’s 2015 report concludes that, without remedial action from the Russian state, the country’s population could shrink to 113 million by 2050, a decrease of more than 20 percent from today’s figures.  Moreover, in a worst-case scenario, RANEPA predicts that Russia’s population could constrict by nearly a third, to 100 million, before mid-century. 
As this trend continues, the Russian state will find it increasingly difficult to maintain control over its current territorial boundaries, raising the possibility of a reduction in the overall size of the Russian state. __ Ilan Berman
Other Russian demographers are not so optimistic, and expect the Russian population to be cut nearly in half by 2065. Once the point of no return is passed, the decline tends to accelerate. Mortality is rising, and officials are contemplating a ban on abortion, a reduction in marriage age to 14 years old for girls, and even “unofficial” second marriages. Source
Russia is a huge land mass, virtually indefencible. As the population shrinks and falls away, longsuffering, long-trampeled neighbors of Russia are likely to fill the vacuum.
Two Russias: The Security Apparatus, and the Serf Economy in Decline
Russia’s current defense industry is regressing by imposing unfocused capabilities upon the state rather than what it actually needs. Certainly the industries comprising this sector, grouped as they are into major state corporations, are honeycombed with corruption and have been for years. Both Western and Russian analysts see them as being inherently economically dysfunctional organizations whose chief purpose is money laundering and the acquisition and/or distribution of corrupt rents, much like the rest of the economy.  More recently, according to their own financial statements, their performance has been abysmal, testifying to the corrosive effects of congenital rent seeking and corruption throughout the defense sector and the overall economy. 
Thus, these industries are inherently suboptimal economic performers and a growing burden on an economy plagued by sanctions and shrinking growth. Shrinking growth is bad enough, but sanctions choke off access to credit, superior technologies and knowhow, and investment.
… given the absence of real growth since 2012, if not earlier, and the sanctions regime whose impact is considerably more than the government will admit (as shown by its diplomatic efforts to eliminate them), rising defense spending may prove to be unsustainable while the economy is shrinking. Indeed, we have good reason to believe that structural militarization is occurring. The late Vitaly Shlykov (former co-chair of Russia’s Defense Council) coined the term structural militarization to suggest that excessive defense spending is an institutionalized aspect of the Soviet and Russian economic system.  If this trend is not reversed or at least checked and absent substantial growth in other sectors besides energy—which in any case would largely stem from rising energy prices that could fund major defense projects—then over time the economy could well be strained to the utmost if not beyond. Therefore spending on the rest of the economy could become progressively less tolerable over time.  __ Stephen Blank
Putin is Writing Checks that Russia’s Banks Will Not Be Able to Cash
… it turns out that the centerpiece of these Crimean infrastructure projects, the bridge over the Kerch Peninsula connecting Crimea to the Russian Federation, cannot be paid for. 
Ultimately, the fundamental problem in realizing Russia’s foreign policy objectives in Asia, including its great power status, is the nature of its political system. And that includes the ideological representations of it as being a strong state with a “power vertical.” As innumerable authors have shown, the state is the private plaything of a small number of elites who cannot govern Russia and are more interested in exploiting the country than in developing or governing it.  To quote the Bulgarian analyst Ivan Krastev, “Russia has not engaged in capacity building but in incapacity hiding.”  Especially in Asia, where the name of the game is the linkage between enhanced capacity and economic development, this kind of masquerade ruins any hope of improving one’s position. __ Russia’s Decline in the Far East
Russia is running through its reserves with no indication that it can stop the hemorrhaging of cash before the tank reaches empty. Infrastructure built up during Soviet years is quickly crumbling from a neglectful inner circle, too busy stuffing its own pockets and jealously guarding its illusory power.
Regardless of bold statements and clever media-cover, Russian plans to re-emerge as a global player face significant limitations and obstacles in all crucial areas such as availability of military bases in foreign countries, financing, blue-water navy, strategic bombers and military-industrial bases. Under such circumstances, recent actions by the Kremlin are a result of fear, rather than a projection of real power backed by a strong military and an effective economy. __ Source
And as we have seen from the articles excerpted above, Russia has good reason to fear what time is bringing her.
Russia is a Regional Rather than a Global Power
Russia’s conventional forces are pale shadows of what the USSR could command. And it is becoming tougher for Russia’s military industries to keep up with an increasingly technology-dependent world of munitions. Teething pains are normal for new weapons systems. But for a country like Russia that is falling behind demographically, technologically, academically, and geopolitically, catching up can become an impossible task.
This was not the first time that something has gone wrong with the Bulava [new ICBM]: 8 out of 26 launches of the missile have been unsuccessful.
… according to an RBTH source in the Russian defense industry, the heaviest and most powerful Russian intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-36M2 Voevoda, also exploded in the air and fell during the first 30 trials … __ Russia Always Has Trouble With Ballistic Missiles
Russian defence factories can still crank out a high volume of weapons. But they are not necessarily the right weapons for the job that Russian politicians want done, and they won’t always work. Hence the Russian cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea toward Syria only to crash land in Iran, killing some cows. Shock and awe, certainly, but cows are easily awed.
At least the Syrian massacre of civilians has served as a fine promotional showcase for Russian weapons systems, which are less reliable, but are cheaper. With the price of oil & gas so much lower, and ever fewer young women to sell, the sale of weapons helps to prop up the system for a while longer.
The harder Russia tries to be a superpower, the worse its human infrastructure crumples under the strain. It is likely that Putin no longer has a choice but to play the game out to the bitter end. Putin can bluff the EU and Obama, and he could certainly bluff a President Hillary Clinton. But the bear can no longer bluff the dragon, not with any number of nuclear warheads.
Muskovites tend to live in a fantasy world, which Putin supplies with ample fantasies of imagined greatness. But the bear is surrounded by dozens of peoples who have been historical victims of Russia, and would like nothing better than to finally end the threat that Muskovy has posed for all this time. Russia is trying to be strong. But that is only making it weaker, and more unbalanced. Tragedy awaits.
“His tactical correctness led him to a series of major military successes, but his strategic mistake led to the final catastrophe” for himself and his country.
Putin Hitler __ Source