July 08, 2022

Vladimir Putin Often Backs Down

There’s a well-known story about Russian President Vladimir Putin and a rat. As Putin tells it in his autobiography, as a child, he chased a rat around his family’s apartment building, eventually trapping it in a corner. The rat then lashed out, attacked the young Putin, and attempted to bite him.

This experience, in Putin’s words, taught him that if cornered, “you have to fight to the finish line in every fight” and “you need to assume that there is no retreat.”

Western officials have often cited this story for how Putin allegedly never backs down and is particularly dangerous when cornered.This belief has led many in the West to fear that Putin may undertake more brutal and destructive steps, even resorting to chemical or nuclear weapons, if he’s trapped into a humiliating defeat in Ukraine.

There is just one problem with the assumption that Putin never backs down. It’s incorrect

That assumption appears to be behind Western pressure on Ukraine to give up territory and make concessions to end the war with Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and even NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have repeatedly suggested that Europe wants “some credible negotiations” and “diplomatic solutions.” Likewise, Macron has said, “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops, we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means.”

There is just one problem with the assumption that Putin never backs down.

It’s incorrect—part of the myth-making that the Russian president has successfully constructed around himself and has been all-too-easily swallowed by many Western politicians. Contrary to the commonly held belief, when faced with strength and resolve, Putin often backs down instead of responding with more escalatory steps.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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