What is the chance that Russia's recent issues (selling arms to enemies, etc) is part of a game to convince all nations they are a balance to American policy, when really the two superpowers are acting as close allies?
I don't think so.
I think that Russia will pin the Al-Quaida tail on every donkey they kill in their ongoing situation in south Russia as a means of justifying their policies and gaining international support.
I would not be surprised if the Chechens rebels had Al-Q connections. On the other hand, given how the Russkies operate, I would be equally unsurprised to find out the Russians were significantly exaggerating those ties.
You have to remember that Russia is a basket case. It has almost no quality industrial capability that is not arms related. The whole economy was geared toword the military in attempt to never never allow other Europeans to invade and kill millions of Russians.
Somehow when the USSR breathed it's last, the change possible in the economy never occured. The economy and the potential for modernization and growth never really happened. The oligarchs, led by Al Gore and Marc Rich siphones all the capital to Switzerland. The primary workforce is mostly alcoholic. The women can't do all that needs to be done. Russian oil is consequential but inadequate to shore up his economy. He has no manufacturing base with quality products suitable for export. Commodity prices are down. Russia is doomed.
Putin knows this. He knows it only too well.Today, Putin has no choice but to to go to his only resource of consequence, his military manufacturing capability. That's all he has. I don't see his arms sales as purely anti American nor a resumption of the Cold War. It is sheer economic necessity. Sell arms or die.