All other ideological rivals--communism, liberal internationalism--have either faded or have failed to inspire, leaving nationalism as the last man standing. See this piece by journalist John O'Sullivan on the cast for nationalism and how healthy nationalism is a prerequisite for democracy. He writes:
A final brief argument is perhaps the strongest: Nation-states are an almost necessary basis for democracy. A common language and culture, a common allegiance to national institutions, a common sense of destiny, all within a defined territory, with equal rights for all citizens—these seem to be the conditions that enable people with different opinions and interests to accept political defeat and the passage of laws to which they strongly object. There are a few exceptions to this rule—India, Switzerland—but many more confirmations of it.The whole piece is here: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303802104579451504265877512?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303802104579451504265877512.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_hp_RightTopStories
Putin is NOT a nationalist, he argues, but an imperialist. (Debatable.) It looks like Putin's motives have been for Russia's security. (This piece explains better than most why Putin's gambit deserves to be opposed. But he's right in noting that a strong sense of identity and obligation to the nation-state probably is the best bulwark for democratic freedoms.