Russia is seeing their international plans come to fruition by adopting a nuanced, yet bold approach to foreign policy — while the world watches idly.

It’s difficult to know what Russia is going to do. On the other hand, we’re somewhat predictable. We’ve made it clear who and what we represent. It’s both good and bad. Morally, it allows us to navigate a confusing world. But Russia uses our predictability and banks on it. Today, they know they’ve got leverage in Syria and flexibility to do more overt actions around the globe. We may have helped their rise inadvertently by boasting that Russia had lost the Cold War and their time as an influencing global power was over. They may not be a superpower, but they go long, while we go short – and it’s becoming evident.

Russia fought secret insurgencies in Crimea and Ukraine. They gauged sentiment and acted accordingly. They helped themselves and struggled to control the narrative. Their geopolitical maneuvers are controversial but always come with a strategically logical backing, ostensibly justified by Russian ties and pro-Russia sentiment in these countries. More importantly, Russia limits their exposure. When they’re exposed, they deny.

When Russian troops were caught in Ukraine, they were “on vacation.” As hilarious as that is, it’s theater of the absurd. More so because it ended there and Russia got away with it. Because they know they can, and they’ve learned new limits. In part, Russia has used Syria as an experiment. The Syrian regime has incrementally and methodically increased their attacks and their brutality over time, waiting for outrage. But, there was no outrage until, finally, an over-the-top chemical attack occurred. The response was more absurdity: We assumed they’d just turn in the chemical weapons. Like when we tell a child to hand in his toys as punishment. “You weren’t supposed to use them like that, Bashar, now turn them in.”

Except, as careless as it was for the Assad regime to use chemical weapons, it is equally reckless to accept a promise from Syria, backed by Russia, that they’ll turn in their full arsenal. In global strategy, every nation carries out their actions in their own best interest. Of course Syria maintained a small percentage of chemical weapons. A big reason for that: They don’t want to be left empty-handed against Israel, who is known to have chemical weapons.

So, we’re back where we started, condemning Syria for their use of chemical attacks.