To much of the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions leading up to and since the invasion of Ukraine have often appeared unpredictable and illogical. For example, when faced with embarrassing military setbacks, Putin doubled down with a massive military mobilization rather than looking for an exit strategy — as most assumed he would do.
To avoid further surprise, Western leaders need to better grasp Putin’s worldview, which is heavily shaped by three basic national narratives, according to James Wertsch, the David R. Francis Distinguished Professor and director emeritus of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis.
National narratives are very powerful and largely impervious to challenge from facts and rational argument.James V. Wertsch
“What is needed instead are efforts to control the narrative and move it in a new direction. This is a daunting struggle in Putin’s Russia, where many opposition figures are in prison or in exile, though. The narratives at work are bigger than any individual. Any likely successor of Putin will probably adhere to the same core beliefs”, Wertsch said.