The Russian despot claimed the West was waging a “hybrid war” against Russia, a term used to describe the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in other countries’ democratic elections.
He said the West wanted Russia to become its colony, even as his troops sought to continue their war of conquest in Ukraine.
And he declared that the “dictatorship of the Western elites is directed against all societies, including the peoples of the Western countries themselves”.
“They don't want to see us a free society. They want to see us as a crowd of slaves,” he chuntered, even as Russians who dare to speak a simple truth, that his “special military operation” is a “war”, face up to 15 years in prison.
Putin’s accusations were in fact a description of his own regime.
Amid his unhinged rhetoric came a predictable, thinly veiled threat. By using nuclear weapons against Japan in the Second World War, the United States had set a “precedent”.
There is a theory that if Putin is faced with defeat in Ukraine – one which could lead to his downfall at home – he would have no compunction about using nuclear weapons. A cornered rat, coming out fighting.
This could be true. However, if Putin thinks that by acting in increasingly erratic ways, he can terrify the West into forcing Ukraine to cut a deal, he is mistaken.
Should he be allowed to annex the four regions of Ukraine, his position at home would become much stronger. This would enable him to rebuild for another attempt to seize the entirety of Ukraine and continue to pursue his obvious ambition to restore the Soviet empire.
The West simply cannot afford to embolden and empower a mass-murdering tyrant so glib about the use of nuclear weapons.
Putin, encouraged by his friendly relations with China, miscalculated when he invaded Ukraine and he is doing so again if he thinks the West is so weak and malleable that it can be frightened off.
A fight in which neither side can back down is very dangerous, so great care must be taken, but appeasing Putin would be careless in the extreme.