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The Reason Putin Would Risk War

By Anne Applebaum

03 Feb 2022 · 9 min read

There are questions about troop numbers, questions about diplomacy. There are questions about the Ukrainian military, its weapons, and its soldiers. There are questions about Germany and France: How will they react? There are questions about America, and how it has come to be a central player in a conflict not of its making. But of all the questions that repeatedly arise about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, the one that gets the least satisfactory answers is this one: Why?

Why would Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, attack a neighboring country that has not provoked him? Why would he risk the blood of his own soldiers? Why would he risk sanctions, and perhaps an economic crisis, as a result? And if he is not really willing to risk these things, then why is he playing this elaborate game?

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