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Andreas Kluth

Putin Wins So Long as Schrodinger’s Cat Lives

Russia’s president has Ukraine and the West in check by keeping every scenario possible at the same time. That won’t work much longer.

Anything is possible.

Anything is possible.

Photographer: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

Here’s an alternative view of the standoff over Ukraine between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the West. Perhaps Putin deliberately created a crisis in which everything is possible at once, and stays that way. Right now, he can invade and not invade (with a perfect poker face, he denies that he intends to). He can escalate and de-escalate; pose as aggressor and victim. 

Let’s call these mutually exclusive but simultaneously possible scenarios strategic “superposition” (you’ll see why in a moment). Putin, with his KGB-trained mind, realizes that hacking perceptions in this way gives him power. As long as everything remains possible and no scenario can be excluded, he retains the world’s attention.