I have met Putin, and I have watched him as a journalist since before he became president. My analysis of his actions was always based on the assumption of his rationality. There was always something to gain, a manageable risk of losing. Perhaps I was wrong from the start. Perhaps Putin has changed in recent years as his close circle narrowed and negative selection expelled people with a broader vision from the ranks of his advisors. Quite likely, Ukraine has long constituted an exception from Putin’s rationality, as most of its people time and time again chose the Western path, away from Putin’s vision of the Russian World.
I left Russia after the Crimea annexation because I couldn’t accept it and felt it was a great historical wrong — both for Ukraine and for Russia. But I ended up returning to that assumption of rationality. I analyzed Putin’s moves from a cost and benefit perspective. I have a lot of rethinking to do.
The invasion is an irrational move. It makes any further negotiations with Putin and his clique pointless: There is, quite clearly, nothing he won't do, no line he won’t cross, no matter what he says or what deal he makes. From this point on, autarky is the only feasible economic choice for Russia, and a retreat into isolation is the only remaining cultural and political choice. At the same time, Russia's dependence on China, which has grown in recent years, is no longer a matter of choice. Any security benefits from turning Ukraine — and neighboring Belarus, from whose territory Putin also attacked — into a buffer state are illusory since Russia also borders actual NATO member states, which now will arm themselves as heavily as possible.
I was not expecting a full-scale invasion, but my positions benefitted anyway. I agree we are now in a new environment and it will be years before Russia’s relationship with most of its biggest trading partners is repaired.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top