Gordon Brown on punishing Vladimir Putin over Ukraine
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Since first taking office 23 years ago, Putin has carefully constructed a strongman public image by posing for pictures while competing in judo, playing ice hockey and even riding shirtless on a horse. However, since Russia’s devastating invasion of Ukraine, a number of people have speculated that Putin may be suffering from severe physical health issues or that he has “gone crazy”. The invasion has sparked international outrage and a raft of sanctions, turning Russia into a pariah state.
Last week, US Republican senator and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio claimed that “something is off” with Putin.
Mr Rubio added: “He has always been a killer but his problem now is different and significant. [He] appears to have some neuro/physiological health issues”.
Yet according to Mr Radnitz, who is a professor of Russian and Eurasian studies at the University of Washington, Putin is trying to “appear irrational” as a form of “brinkmanship”.
When Putin spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after annexing the Crimean peninsula in 2014, she reportedly made the offhand comment that the Russian was living “in another world”.
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At the time, Mr Radnitz wrote in Slate: “It may indeed be that Putin is deranged. His actions are certainly consistent with the portrait of an enraged, hypernationalist, conspiratorial madman who is heedless of the consequences to Russia and himself.
“But they are also consistent with another possibility ‒ that Putin is still merely engaging in brinkmanship, and rationally so.”
Mr Radnitz goes on to explain strategic theorist Thomas Schelling’s concept of the “rationality of irrationality.”
He writes: “This can be illustrated through the game of chicken, in which two drivers are heading for each other at full speed and the first to swerve is the chicken.
“A driver who appears crazy enough to prefer dying over chickening out will always have the advantage.
“It is therefore rational for a player to convince his opponent that he is actually irrational.”
Days into his invasion of Ukraine, Putin told his top defence officials to put Russian nuclear forces on “special combat readiness”, a heightened alert status that renewed fears of nuclear war across the world.
In response, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticised Putin for taking “another escalatory and unnecessary step that threatens us all.”
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Then, on Saturday, Putin warned that any attempt by NATO to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine would be tantamount to directly entering the conflict.
Despite Ukraine pleading with the West to impose the no-fly zone, Putin insisted that “any move in this direction” would be interpreted as an intervention that “will pose a threat to our service members.”
As such, while the West has inflicted heavy sanctions on Russia, it has not directly prevented the Russian military from shelling Ukrainian cities.
Speaking in 2014, Mr Radnitz added: “When it comes to Ukraine, if Putin is rationally trying to appear irrational, then he is pulling it off spectacularly.”
“With the nervous talk in Western foreign policy circles about mobilising NATO, dealing with a potential split of Ukraine, and having a failed state on the EU’s borders, many would be relieved to find a way to de-escalate the crisis by taking seriously any demands Putin makes.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukranians would neither forgive nor forget the atrocities inflicted on its civilians, and accused invading Russian troops of murder.
Earlier today, the President said: “There will be no quiet place on Earth for you. Except for the grave.”
Ukrainian officials insist Russia is striking civilian targets across the country including hospitals, schools and nurseries.
Moscow announced today that it would open a new evacuation corridor in major Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol.
However the routes published by Russian news agency RIA Novosti show that some of the corridors end in Russia or Belarus.
The corridor from Kyiv leads to Belarus, who is Russia’s ally, while civilians from Kharkiv’s evacuation route leads to Russia.
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