Amid the shock and horror of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, many have sought to blame everything solely on Vladimir Putin. As international audiences try to make sense of the unthinkable scenes currently unfolding in the heart of Europe, it is convenient to believe that Putin has simply lost his mind.
There is something reassuring about the idea that the carnage in Ukraine is all down to the criminal insanity of one man. However, talk of “Mad Vlad” is a comforting myth that disguises a far darker reality.
While the Russian ruler’s well-documented Ukraine obsession has been instrumental in sparking the largest European conflict since World War II, his decision to invade Ukraine was entirely consistent with longstanding public statements and foreign policy goals that are enthusiastically embraced by a clear majority of Russians. This is their war just as much as it is Putin’s.