The current mutual spike in militant rhetoric between the US and Russia looks like an ordered and coordinated side help in creating and massaging the "right" atmosphere in the last few weeks that remain till the US presidential elections. On Russia's side most of the measures look hasty, improvised, and rather symbolic, that is, weak (3 ships here, 5000 soldiers there etc.).
This does not mean that there
is no risk or danger in heating up the talk (of hitting each other with
bombs or even nuclear missiles). Equally, such aggressive talk does not
make it less irresponsible or less a tool of psychological war (even
against one's own population like today's reported announcement of
assuring the people of Petersburg with 300 grams of bread and a nuclear
shelter). And, yes, there are enough people who not only would not mind,
but would rather welcome pulling off something similar to Erdogan's
"stabbing Russia into the back."
Still wider and cooler heads
have noted that, facing the steady resilience of Damascus and Putin's
own ever harder to conceal anxiety and crumbling facade, Moscow had
displayed in the past a pattern of sorts--just before caving in with
Minsk 1 and 2 or with the rejection of the Novorossiya referendum in
Donbass or the deals on Syria (signing on the US demands), Moscow tried
to project and increase its "firmness" and "patriotism" and to use up
that "assurance" and capital on the sudden sellouts which left the
beguiled public disoriented, confused, stunned, surprised, unprepared
For a more careful look still reveals that both Putin
and Lavrov are fighting hard (and desperately) to bring the
Lavrov-Kelly pact on Syria back from the dead, together with saving al
Qaeda in Aleppo and Aleppo for the rebels, and that the Kremlin is still
moving resolutely forward in its "strategic" haggling over presenting
the Kuril Islands to Japan as part of the newly found supposed "trust"
or confidence in Japan (perhaps as good and logical as the newly
restored confidence in Erdogan). Similarly, the Kremlin is still trying
to square the circle of Donbass and return it ("re-integrate" it) to
anti-Russian, NATO-dependent Ukraine.
It is also interesting to note that, very recently, the Russian media, including the state media, began posting photos of Putin, which, unlike the previous ones often doctored, carefully designed and angled, are presenting Putin in his more true-to-life much less impressive and much less stately physiognomy. This is, moreover, happening while there is a growing talk about a possible early presidential election in 2017 (instead of 2018).
For how, let say, BBC covers some aspects of this situation, see for example here.