Putin's inner circle reportedly seemed to think his military buildup was just a bluff

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Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Many in Russia are shocked to see President Vladimir Putin escalate the country's conflict with Ukraine to a full-scale war, reports The New York Times.

Even though Moscow's invasion of Ukraine was not entirely surprising after weeks of increasing military presence along the border, many analysts say some of Putin's strategy is seemingly out of character. "A number of people in Moscow's foreign policy establishment, where analysts overwhelmingly characterized Mr. Putin's military buildup around Ukraine as an elaborate and astute bluff in recent months, admitted on Thursday that they had monumentally misjudged a man they had spent decades studying," writes the Times. Several prominent pundits in Russia had written off the idea of war as ridiculous given Putin's past handling of conflict.

One notable change, experts told the Times, is Putin's demeanor after two years of the global pandemic. After Putin's long-term dedication to self-isolating, he "appeared to become more aggrieved and more emotional, and increasingly spoke about his mission in stark historical terms." Political scientist Gleb O. Pavlovsky, who was once a close adviser to Putin, said "he's become an isolated man, more isolated than Stalin was," and described being stunned by Putin's "dark description of Ukraine as a dire threat to Russia," per the Times.

Another political analyst, Tatiana Stanovaya, agreed Putin has "become less pragmatic, and more emotional." After years of projecting calm strength, she and much of the "ruling elite around" Putin were astounded by the "shift" away from pragmatic strategy. Stanovaya said even Putin's inner circle did not realize Russia was actually hurtling toward war until it was too late. Read more at The New York Times.

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