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Eli Lake

Putin Is Only Pretending to Be Crazy on Ukraine

Russia’s president knows there will be few consequences if he orders an invasion, but that doesn’t mean he will.

Only playing a madman on TV.

Only playing a madman on TV.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Watching Vladimir Putin Thursday at his year-end press conference, one is tempted to ask whether the Russian president has gone mad.

Here is a man leading a country that in the last few months has amassed tens of thousands of soldiers and advanced military equipment on Ukraine’s border, now asserting that it is Ukraine which is planning an invasion of Russia. Putin claimed (without evidence) that the U.S. intends to arm Ukraine with hypersonic missiles. “They just have to understand that we have nowhere left to retreat,” Putin said.