Russian leaders are seldom guided by much more than sheer cold brutal expediency. They do however have to work with political support from a less than rational people.
The same is true of the Pakis.
And far less true of the Norks.
As for the Russians not making sense:
- In geopolitics pride and anger are justifications, almost never core reasons for action.
- Russia's core strategic assets are being threatened and key agreements made in the early Yeltsin years are trampled on. Russia's sovereignty, security, ethnic groups abroad and key economic assets are all under threat as of the Orange Mistake of 2005.
- The significance of Georgia, and particularly the Ukraine to key Russian interests should not be underestimated. To take Russia to task for having these interests is to take the Euroweenie pacifist "end of history" perspective, which is paradoxically what the West has been doing these past few weeks. It is also to ignore that the US has the Monroe Doctrine, and Australia has its own "near abroad" in the Pacific Islands, where we play Big Daddy, and rightly so. And not always with the poor little fuzzy wuzzy's interests at heart, as in the case of Timor Sea oil negotiations. And rightly so again.
Now one may still say that there is reason to pressure or cripple Russia, either for a better deal on other geopolitical matters, or for the endgame of depriving them of their nukes. But even then it serves us little to pretend that Russia does not have serious interests driving its actions.