The puffy face of the man on the screen was distorted by hatred: Eyes narrowed, thin lips pressed together and pushing out sharp words in angry bursts. At times, the right hand — with an expensive watch on the wrist, concealed by too-long shirt and jacket sleeves — slid under the desk, as if he were fumbling for a button to push. Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the nation.

This extraordinary rant Monday evening — an almost hourlong denunciation of Ukraine and all it stands for, peppered with the quaint tangents of an amateur historian and filled with rage at what he sees as broken promises and slights by the U.S. — left me with a sinking feeling. I’d been both hoping and predicting that Putin, after a few half-hearted attempts at diplomacy, would stop at recognizing the puppet “people’s republics” of eastern Ukraine — the LNR and the DNR — or, at most, incorporate them into Russia itself. The speech, however, sounded at times as though it was the nuclear button Putin was fingering under the desk.

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.