Meet Sheriff Vladimir Putin. Now that his panicked rate hike has exposed the true weakness of his position, shooting himself, his people and the rest of us — figuratively, we think — shouldn’t be beyond the realm of speculation. He was willing to seize Crimea and dare the world to stop him, to start moving troops and guns into eastern Ukraine, and to trot out Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday with the other N-word, so, he’s officially a loose cannon now.

“Putin Threatens to Move Nukes Into Crimea as Ruble Tumbles” was the headline at about 7 a.m. yesterday from the Fiscal Times, Peter G. Peterson’s vanity press, and at once we were confronted with the worst thought possible, although it defies even our most cynical views. Besides, what’s the added threat there? Wouldn’t that be the same as moving your car to the end of the driveway?

With the Obama administration vowing to keep its foot on the Russian economy’s throat in the weeks and months to come, we’re probably in for some bad craziness, as Hunter Thompson would have said. If you follow the money and you’re not Alden Global Capital, you’d better be wearing a diaper. As Vladimir Kuznetsov, Ksenia Galouchko and Ye Xie report, Pimco’s getting crushed, there is one (1) ruble call option registered in the U.S. that’s still in the money, and forex brokers are starting to shut down ruble trading. Russia’s finance ministry has begun selling foreign currencies.

“This is absolutely a unique crisis,” Slava Rabinovich, chief executive officer at Diamond Age Capital Advisers in Moscow, told Ye. “We are watching the explosion. There is no sector that is immune to the devaluation damages.”

Apple has halted online sales there because of the ruble’s spiral, and it’s just the headliner of many more companies struggling with a response. Russians are clamoring for U.S. dollars, which is why capital controls are still the other shoe to drop, even if Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev says otherwise. Actually, what he said was they weren’t discussed, says Dan Moss, executive editor for economic coverage. So where is this going, Dan?

What typically happens in circumstances like this, Moss says, involves seeking help from the IMF. Or the Fed could open a dollar-swap agreement with Russia’s central bank. Unless Putin’s ready to quit Crimea, those avenues are probably closed. He says it’s difficult to see what’s ahead.

“How do you end this?” he wonders. “You can pull out of Crimea, and then maybe sanctions would be relaxed, and Russia would just be in a regular emerging-market-meltdown situation as opposed to a real specific one. Do we really think that’s likely to happen?

‘‘It is hard to see an exit ramp for this,’’ Moss says finally. ‘‘It’s possible they just tough it out. Putin invoked the hardships of World War II in a recent speech. Compared with the massive suffering of the 1940s that the Russian people endured, this could be presented as a relatively small thing.’’

Is there anyone in there who can turn Putin’s head before he does more harm with that bunker mentality? Outside of Russia, at least, there are people ready to step in when the time comes. Under the headline ‘‘Russians Plot Exiled Government in Kiev,’’ the Daily Beast suggests plans are already on the table. But it probably won’t be pretty.

“By the time Vladimir Putin’s rule comes to an end, an exiled government will be ready to help reform Russia,” the story says before quoting an exiled opposition figure giving a “5 percent chance for a blood-free change of regime.”

In the meantime, expect more collateral damage, despite the temptation to think otherwise.

“The deteriorating Russian economy might be viewed as a local, or perhaps regional, problem,” the Fiscal Times article suggested.