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Vladimir Putin stakes it all on Ukraine

Russian leader driven by his belief in the narrative of Western decline

| Russia & Caucasus
Vladimir Putin, pictured in Moscow on Feb. 23: the Russian President's biggest fear is not so much an expansion of the NATO alliance to Ukraine but democracy on his doorstep.   © Kremlin Pool/AP

Lionel Barber is former editor of the Financial Times. He is author of "The Powerful and the Damned: Private Diaries in Turbulent Times."

Shortly before midnight in the Kremlin, in the summer of 2019, I asked Vladimir Putin whether his risk appetite had increased with every passing year in power.

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