The more Putin’s invasion grinds to a halt, the angrier he gets and the readier he gets to murder civilians, women and children. He cannot afford defeat, but the angrier and more violent he becomes, the less room for maneuver he actually has.
No one will want to do deals with a pariah, and the sanctions Russia is now suffering are leading to anger on the part of the oligarchs whose worlds are being turned upside down.
Ordinary Russians are also becoming increasingly more angry with him, not only because of the economic hardships but also because the easy victory promised against Ukraine is not materializing. The Russian president still holds out hope that Ukraine will surrender and cover up his strategic error.
But as a world leader, he is finished and will be as isolated as Kim Jong-un and dependent almost entirely on relations with China.
Sooner or later, Putin will pay the price for his war crimes.
For the time being, those close to Putin still fear him, but their fear of ending up sharing his fate may prove greater in the end.
His isolation will become an increasing liability for Russia and some of his underlings will begin to understand that he is taking them down with him. Putin will remember that even Stalin was not immortal and that his death is until this day as mysterious as it was convenient for those who committed crimes with him and feared what he might do to them next.
There are similarities between Putin’s current position and that of Stalin’s in 1953, although the former lacks the latter’s political achievements and is not as feared. He may not end up being murdered by the military and aristocrats, as was the case with Tsar Paul I in 1801, but he cannot feel secure about his future.
It is harder these days to kill a ruler than it once was, but a coup is possible if those who serve him come to the conclusion that they will be safer without him — such was the case with Romanian dictator Ceausescu and his wife in 1989.
Putin would be most fortunate if he actually dies a natural death and gets to retire. He could, after all, end up like Slobodan Milosevic who died awaiting trial in the Hague Tribunal.
Faced with all those bad omens, an angry Putin crosses more red lines. For the time being, those close to him still fear him, but their fear of ending up sharing his fate may prove greater in the end.
The Ides of March is a dangerous time.