Vladimir Putin punches above his weight.
That is the only conclusion you can draw from the Russian leader's brash aggressiveness in the Ukraine and elsewhere in the face of punishing sanctions from President Barack Obama.
The wiry, little guy with the big ego keeps punching away as though he can't hear the bell or, more likely, chooses to ignore it. It is almost as though Putin is determined to make Obama sorely regret mocking him and his country.
That happened in March when Obama, following Putin's annexation of the Crimea and his scarcely veiled proxy incursion into Ukraine, belittled Putin and Russia.
Obama said Russia was nothing more than "a regional power" that did not represent much of a threat to the United States. This statement had to come as a surprise to Putin, the leader of a country that defeated the vaunted German army during World War II, and then was America's main adversary during the long years of the Cold War.
In those remarks, Obama said Russia acted aggressively toward its neighbors "not out of strength, but out of weakness." In other words, the implication was that that Putin was a little bully who could not punch above his weight.
This only added insult to injury to the ripped leader of Mother Russia who is not only known as a wily politician, but is a martial artist. He holds a black belt, rides horses bareback -- and bare-chested -- kayaks, skis, hunts, fishes, swims, boxes and, in his spare time, wrestles polar bears.
This left jab at the ego-driven Russian leader left him no alternative but to prove that not only could he punch above his weight, but he could do so better than anyone else around. Certainly better than any of the leaders of the piddling little countries that Obama praises for their alleged punching ability.
The president's boxing metaphor might be a compliment to small countries, but it is meaningless without mentioning Putin. The guy has a wicked right cross.
Obama, as is his habit, likes to compliment smaller countries, usually fellow democracies, using his favorite, albeit overused, boxing metaphor. He says these countries are impressive in that they punch above their weight. It is not true, of course, but it is accepted as a high compliment, and the visiting recipient leaves the White House slap-happy, if not punch-drunk.
Thus, after a meeting with Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the first woman prime minister of Denmark, Obama said, "Danes have punched above their weight in international affairs."
When he met with Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister of Norway, Obama said, "I said this before but I want to repeat, Norway punches above its weight."
"We have no stronger ally than the Netherlands," Obama told Prime Minister Mark Rudd in 2011. "They consistently punch above their weight." Only last year, at a meeting with Enda Kelly, Taoiseach leader of Ireland, Obama said Ireland "punches above its weight internationally when it comes to humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping."
It got so bizarre that Dutch comedian Thomas Buch-Anderson did a video on Obama and his remarks on Danish television that went viral.
The Obama punch line might have been taken seriously if he had included Putin. After all, the Russians did show a punch when he put down the nasty terrorist rebellion in Chechnya, for instance, let alone in taking over Crimea and then starting real trouble in Ukraine.
But that is not all. While Obama was out golfing, Putin met with Cuba's Fidel Castro in Havana and announced the reopening of Russia's Cuban Cold War intelligence listening base that is used to spy on the United States. The base, located in Lourdes, south of Havana, was mothballed following the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as a gesture of rapprochement.
While Obama is still seeking to shut down Guantanamo, Putin is reopening Lourdes, both on the same island. It is indicative of the deterioration of relations between Russia and the U.S., as well as Putin's growing aggressiveness in the face of Obama's increasing passiveness.
Putin's Russia may be nothing more than a regional power in Obama's eyes, but right now, Putin is the most dominating political figure in the world.
The tough former KGB colonel keeps punching away while Obama is up against the ropes, locked in a rope-a-dope strategy he cannot, or will not, undo, unable to even tug at Superman's cape.
Clearly, Putin punches above his weight. Putin floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Obama only floats. Poor butterfly.
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday, Friday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.