While many Western commentators have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin has lost his mind, it is more likely that he is pursuing a calculated strategy to stop Ukraine’s reorientation towards the West. The question now is whether the Western powers will denounce his bluff.

BARCELONA — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stunned the world, leading many commentators to conclude that such a rash act could only be committed by an irrational autocrat, or perhaps even a madman. But others discerned a rational strategy for exploiting the West’s current weakness to restore the former Soviet empire. Who is right?

From fiascos in Syria and Afghanistan to Brexit, to growing polarization and paralysis in the United States and Europe (which is also hopelessly dependent on Russian energy), there are many reasons why the Russian President Vladimir Putin may have decided now is the time to strike. Add to that the Russians’ post-imperial hangover after the fall of the Soviet Union, and you can begin to see why he may think he’s got a winning hand.

Putin justified his war on Ukraine with absurd claims about genocide committed against Russians in the country’s eastern provinces, eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s Big Lie in 1938. After Hitler claimed that 300 Germans from Sudetenland had been killed by the Czech police, the West offered its nod of approval to Munich, and Hitler proceeded to invade and dismember Czechoslovakia. We all know what happened next. Like the famous Winston Churchill noted of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on his return: “You have been given a choice between war and dishonour. You have chosen dishonor, and you will have war.

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