Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and the ensuing war cameunexpectedly to the majority of experts and pundits in various countries,immediately revealing deficiencies in the established thinking on a range ofsubjects, from Russian politics to the current state of the global order. Scholars infields like international relations and comparative politics tended to underestimatethe likelihood of a full-fledged war, insisting that rational cost-benefit analysiswould obviously tell Putin not to start it. When they were proved wrong, manyconveniently found refuge in the idea that Putin’s eventual decision was irrationaland therefore not subject to reasonable comprehension.

One common mistake behind almost all these wrong predictions was toassume that before the war Putin was contemplating two particular options,comparing the possible benefits of invasion with the status quo. The outcome ofsuch a comparison seemed quite straightforward, which should have been enoughto dissuade the Russian President, who was enjoying a stable economic andpolitical situation, from engaging in a highly risky adventure. In fact, Putin waslikely weighing the consequences of an invasion against the costs of inaction – ofwhat he believed to be the inevitable development of the political situation in thecoming years. This calculation made him believe that inaction would put him inexistential jeopardy, and he seized the last opportunity to avert a bitter future.

To take stock of this logic and understand the reasoning that made the warinevitable, I suggest looking at the political regime built in Russia as a radicalversion of neoliberalism. Arguably, this perspective not only helps to explain and,to a certain degree, foresee actions driven by the inherent logic of the Russianstate, but also enables one to see the political challenges and openings thatemerge from this major political-military catastrophe.

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