Davide Monteleone—VII
April 23, 2014

In 2008, in these same pages, I wrote that Putin would “remain an irritant to NATO, a source of division within Europe and yet another reason for the West to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.” I was wrong. It’s worse.

Through his illegal actions in Ukraine, Putin has reminded us that leaders of great countries are most dangerous when they make up their own facts. Putin’s worldview is colored by toxic fictions.

Putin’s ultra-nationalistic instinct has upped his poll numbers, but his increased influence will be temporary. Russia has acquired territory but lost credibility. Putin has bought himself a pile of problems at the cost of the international ties Russia needs to prosper. He has betrayed Russia’s best resource — its people — who will eventually realize his rhetoric is nothing more than a fantasy inside a delusion wrapped in a tissue of lies.

To some, Putin has “won” Crimea. Will he recognize his “victory” is Pyrrhic — or try to repeat it? History is filled with aggressors who triumphed for a moment. Then failed.

Albright served as the 64th U.S. Secretary of State

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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