No, Putin isn't re-building the third Reich: Chamberlain isn't a historic villain because he did nothing after Hitler seized neighboring German-speaking territories. He's a historic villain because he did nothing after Hitler blamed Christianity for poisoning Europe with weakness, swore to destroy the Jews, build a master race, set fire to the Reichstag, seized all police powers, built concentration camps and THEN invaded German-speaking lands.
No, Putin isn't re-building the Soviet Union: He has implemented a flat, low tax rate, struck the authority of local commissars to impose taxes, decriminalized tax disputes, decentralized agriculture and industry, seen the numbers of abortions decrease 83%, and championed Christianity in the public square.
No, Putin isn't building Aleksandr Dugan's Eurasia, a concept that sounds almost as if it were written by the C.I.A. to justify paranoia and panic. Dugin has been called a trusted advisor to Putin. In fact, Dugin and his allies have been enemies of Putin since before the fall of Gorbachev. Dugin is to Putin what Pat Buchanan is to Barrack Obama, what Rev. Wright is to George W. Bush. Dugin's Eurasia is a communist-Islamicist alliance, whereas Putin has been deeply ingratiating himself as a devout Orthodox Christian.
One thing everyone who has met him, whether Bush supposedly seeing into his soul, or Clinton's loathing the sight of him, is that Putin is a pragmatist, not a crazed ideologue like Hitler, Stalin, Dugan or Zhirinovski. Even his Christianity is pragmatic: He's no like King Henry IV of France, who feigned Catholicism because one mass was a small price to pay for Paris. No, he believes in Christianity because he believes it works. While this sounds grating to the Protestant ear, bear in mind the Orthodox revere Emperor Constantine as a great saint. Western Catholics and Enlightenment-era Protestants might even call it "Natural Law." And the re-Christianization of Russia is progressing rapidly. (If you're such the believer that works and justice have nothing to do with Christianity, it's at least the re-Orthodoxidation?)
In 1991, only 30% of Russians considered themselves Christian. In 2001, that number increased to 51%. Today, the same poll says 73% do. Another poll says 82% of Russians consider themselves Christian. Millions of Muslims have converted. (2 million had by 2005, and reports say the rate of conversions has increased.)
Christian morality is coming back, and Putin's government is leading the char gem crusading against abortion, childlessness, divorce, and alcoholism. As I mentioned, abortion is down an astounding 83%. But parenting is also up more than 50%. And life expectancy has risen 5 years in just the last 8 calendar years.
Putin cannot achieve his goals largely by military annexation. He needs to keep a Duma that supports him, and the leftists coalition of socialist, communists, pensioners and Eurasianists have closed the gap on his right-wing alliance. He can't afford more opponents, politically, economically or militarily. In fact, Russia so far has declined to annex South Ossetia, Transdneiper, Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia; Crimea was an exception because it had been so long Russian and was so dominated by Russian people. He also must seduce allies to his side, and one is seldom seduced by another who has been seen raping a third. If the Donbas region of the Ukraine (Donetsk, Luhansk, etc.) becomes part of Russia, Putin must be able to convince Russophiles that they did so willingly. Any further intrusions into the Ukraine will come years later, should other oblasts (counties) decide that annexation has profited the Donbas.
Putin has defended Christians in the Middle East while the West has sided with Islamicist radicals. Putin will continue to seek a constructive relationship with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. (Yes, Israel is turning away from America as a fickle ally who punishes her friends and coddles her enemies.)
The Eurasian Economic Community consists of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and will likely soon include Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgystan, Moldova and Tajikistan. Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are majority-Muslim nations with sizable Christian minorities, like Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Putin's involvement in Egypt, Israel and Syria demonstrates that the Christian communities in these nations will have a defender. Russia may well be Christianity's best shot for maintaining a foothold in the Islamic world.
If he's really ambitious, Putin may hope that the whole of the Orthodox world may be attracted to Russia, and to expand the Russian-led customs union to Greece, Romania, Serbia, etc. But military aggression would be deadly to such ambitions.
Russia abolished serfdom before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, so don't misread me. But what Putin wants is a modern Russian Empire. And if his methods aren't evil, I'm pretty sure that's not a bad thing.