In the last couple of months, Moscow has actually been quite prudent. This self-restraint is entirely uncharacteristic and is often accompanied by typically assertive language, but it shouldn’t be ignored and deserves a closer look.
Russia’s attention to the high-level (though not necessarily public) messages from Washington DC can be exploited in the coming months in order to mitigate possible late-summer spasms of hostilities, but it will become particularly important by the end of the year, when a new U.S. president-elect will be preparing to take office. While Putin and the next American president may not trust each other off the bat, Putin can suspect that the U.S. commander-in-chief may respond in kind to any Russian aggression. Knowing this, it behooves Putin to stick to the prudent path.