The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Putin’s Strategic Error

By Yasmeen Serhan

09 Mar 2022 · 4 min read

When Vladimir Putin began laying the groundwork for his invasion of Ukraine, he pointed to what he regards as the existential threat posed by the West encroaching farther into the post-Soviet space. Nearly two weeks into Putin’s devastating and costly invasion, that fear has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy: The once-remote possibility of Ukraine joining the European Union and NATO now seems more plausible, and even in historically neutral countries such as Finland and Sweden (both of which are already EU members), public support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has primarily succeeded in materializing his worst fears: a unified West, a more militarized Europe, and a stronger, more attractive NATO. No matter how the invasion ends, this will be one of its legacies. Putin has demonstrated his willingness to violate the sovereignty of Russia’s neighbors, in full view of the world, with little regard for the consequences. Several of those neighbors are now justifiably asking themselves, Could we be next?

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