Why Victory Over your Adversaries might not Taste so Sweet: Putin Miscalculated Badly

Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about Putin’s future.

Putin miscalculated badly. His Army is getting hammered, financial sanctions are crippling, the Russian economy is cratering, and his own people are protesting in the streets. I hope the Biden administration is putting some thinking into managing success.

There’s an urge in these situations to go for the jugular. That approach works in the movies but not in international relations. Humiliating your enemy might feel good at the moment but tends to create resentment and long-term problems. The treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War sowed the seeds for a more destructive Second World War.

Putin’s decision-making seems compromised. He launched a war on a thin pretext. His military has performed poorly in the face of stubborn Ukrainian resistance. Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about the future. If Putin gets deposed, he’s unlikely to survive.

Leaders in his position tend to gamble for resurrection — to make a big move that changes the game in their favor. The gambles rarely pay off, and many people get killed in the process, but dictators often go for an improbable win rather than settle for an inevitable loss. The Battle of the Bulge in World War Two is a classic example.

How America handles Putin’s failure will determine whether Russia seeks new revenge or becomes a constructive player. Creating a face-saving way for Putin to end the conflict that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and avoids concessions that encourage future Russian adventurism will take imagination and artful diplomacy.

Failure to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty would damage western credibility. Failure to discourage adventurism creates a frozen conflict. Humiliating Russia encourages revenge. Mutual respect and accountability promote sustainable peace.

You can imagine ways to translate this situation into your business and life. How do you create buy-in when you win a battle for resources or policy?

The three elements of buy-in are the Common Good, Self-interest, and Accountability. Without respect for the Common Good, people act selfishly. If people do not see how they will be better off, they will only go through the motions and may even play guerilla warfare. No accountability means backsliding and chaos.

Manage success so that you soar to new heights and avoid getting bogged down by guilt or envy.

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