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Putin shows that Bullies don’s Stop until this Happens

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows that bullies don’t stop until they get punched in the mouth.

Various world leaders had coddled, supported, excused, and rationalized Putin’s aggressive actions, such as invading Georgia in 2008, seizing Crimea in 2014, condoning cyberattacks, and meddling in other countries elections. Sure, there was plenty of finger-wagging and grandstanding, but bullies don’t care about what you say or write. They only believe what you do.

Twenty years of quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military misadventures seem to have convinced Putin that a punch-drunk America and divided NATO would not impose high costs, so he turned his eyes on Ukraine. Quagmires have consequences beyond their economic costs, as I discuss in my latest book Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War.

Like most competent bullies, Putin has created defenses against retaliation (amassing a substantial financial reserve) and made clear that he can respond in kind with even more significant pain on those who oppose him. Thus, current sanctions have not targeted Russian gas exports, full participation in the SWIFT banking system, or the properties and assets of Russian oligarchs in places like London and Miami. Western countries have sent only limited military supplies to Ukraine.

Bullies follow the grapefruit principle: they don’t stop until they believe that the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.


That reckoning could come sooner rather than later. Several sources in Poland say that the Ukrainians are punishing the Russian offensive heavily.


Who are the Putin’s in your company? Chances are they are the ones who get short-term results and have the highest employee turnover rates. Looking the other way or rationalizing (“he’s a jerk, but he gets results”) enables the behavior and damages to your company. Don’t try to fix employee turnover by dangling more carrots. Fire the people who are creating the problem.

Who are the Putin’s in your life? They are the ones telling you that you can’t achieve your dreams, that you won’t succeed as a solo practitioner, that you have to go with the flow (even dead fish go with the flow, BTW). These bullies are the success-shamers, trauma-dumpers, naysayers, mediocrats, and finger-wagging conformity scolds who tell you that every success is dumb luck and any setback is evidence that “you can’t do it.”   

What are you doing to replace your Putin’s with people who help you soar to new heights?

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