The prevailing assumption has been that Putin continues to have a firm grasp on domestic political opinion in Russia and that this extends to strong support for his muscular response to events in Ukraine. Time has published an interesting article which raises questions about this assumption.
4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine As Russia's Ukraine power play reaches boiling point in Crimea, there are clear signs a Russian invasion may be a disaster for its architect, President Vladimir Putin
At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.
That does not necessarily mean Putin will face an uprising at home. So far, the antiwar protests in Moscow have looked almost pathetically temperate. But sociologists have been saying for years that Putin’s core electorate is dwindling. What underpins his popularity — roughly 60% approved of his rule before this crisis started — is a total lack of viable alternatives to Putin’s rule. But this decision is sure to eat away at the passive mass of his supporters, especially in Russia’s biggest cities.The gist of the article is that the balance of long term consequences for Russia will be negative. Whatever level of sanctions do come from the west will have an adverse economic impact. Russia will become more globally isolated. It makes the assumption that China is trying to find a neutral position in the mater.
There really isn't any question that this is a big gamble for Putin. He of course has a well cultivated image as a brash and steely poker player. I think that the Time article ask interesting questions. It is likely a bit soon to be so certain about the conclusions that they reach.