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Clara Ferreira Marques

Vladimir Putin’s Goodbye Will Be a Long One

Russia’s president is in a tight spot, isolated, with his economy crumbling. But this is only the beginning of the end.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Photographer: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine — cutting off his own nation of nearly 150 million and torpedoing its economy in pursuit of a delusion — marks the start of a final act for Russia’s president. Not yet the end.

Swept up by the charm of Ukraine’s comedian-turned-president, the bravery of the country’s defenders and the blunders of Russia’s armed forces, some may think that a miscalculation on this scale will trigger the swift demise of the longest-serving Russian leader since Josef Stalin. The unprecedented breadth of sanctions imposed means pain for both oligarchs and ordinary households, and opposition to the war is emerging from unusual quarters. We know that dictators are, more often than not, felled by their own mistakes — and those errors have often been far less consequential than this one.