• Otávio Santiago

An ‘Unhinged’ Putin Threatens Dangerous Escalation in Ukraine War

Updated: Mar 16

With no off-ramp in sight, Russia’s leader has put the country’s nuclear forces on alert.

AS RUSSIA’S NEW invasion of Ukraine nears its second week, Putin’s war of choice seems set to enter a uniquely dangerous phase—one that vastly increases the chances of global ramifications far beyond Eastern Europe.

Western countries and alliances spent the weekend arraying a sweeping set of diplomatic and economic tools to punish and isolate the Russian economy and individually target the institutions and people around President Vladimir Putin, actions that led Putin himself to threaten Sunday even further escalations.

In just a matter of days, Russia found itself transformed from a global superpower to a pariah state akin to North Korea or Iran. Putin has spent the last two decades seeking a return to what he sees as the glory days of the Soviet Union. He now finds himself under global pressure unlike anything he’s ever faced—more isolated and alone, atop a weaker country than he’s ever led.

It is a dangerous place for a man who has long aspired to be one of the great forces of history.

“It looks to me Putin has made a gamble of Napoleonic arrogance and has been proven wrong,” says Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the leading observers of modern great power politics. “In an effort to collapse the liberal order, to show that Ukraine is not a real country, that NATO is feckless, that the West isn’t willing to bear any burden for its values—all of that has been proven untrue by Putin’s own hand.”

The weekend of Western unity and action was a surprising and monumental—and hardly predictable—outcome. Putin’s geopolitical misbehavior and corruption has spiraled over the last dozen years with seemingly few meaningful Western sanctions; he had invaded Ukraine twice already, crushed political dissidents, rewritten the nation’s history, poisoned political opponents at home and abroad, backed brutal regimes overseas, attacked and attempted to undermine the US election, and hosted a toxic stew of transnational organized crime that has pillaged Western banks and businesses through ransomware and other cyber-enabled fraud.

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