Why did Putin go too far? The rationality of Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin a war with Ukraine


political decision-making
Western militant democracy


The paper aims to determine the extent of the rationality of Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin a war with Ukraine. Its central argument is that this decision was irrational on three levels. Firstly, the Russian decision-making elites failed to foresee the ability of the Ukrainian army and people to resist efficiently. It might have resulted from the imperial superiority syndrome reinforced by the experiences of 2014. Secondly, the elites treated the reports on the Russian army’s combat readiness as reliable and did not make an effort to verify them. Probably no one can determine the scale of the kleptocracy, and therefore no one has reliable data on the quality of the Russian army’s combat preparation. Thirdly, the elites failed to envisage the scale of support for Ukraine from Western democracies. What is more, they did not take into account the democratic rationality of Western politicians. The same politicians who appeared to Putin to be weak and incapable of action, immediately after the mass social protests and condemnation of Russia’s aggression by public opinion, acted following the clearly expressed will of the political nation. The article reflects on the systemic reasons for such a poor definition of the decision-making situation and then tries to formulate the general relationship between the quality of the decision-making elite and the acceleration of the bifurcation processes of the Russian autocratic regime.



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