Putin “totally miscalculated” by invading Ukraine but is a “rational actor”

President Joe Biden said in an exclusive CNN interview Tuesday he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who nonetheless badly misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and suppress its people.

“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russian bombardments on civilian targets in Ukraine signaled another turning point in the months-long war.

Biden, his top officials and fellow Western leaders have spent the past several months debating what steps Putin may take as his troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield in Ukraine. Biden himself warned last week the risk of “nuclear Armageddon” was at its highest point in 60 years.

Whether Putin is acting rationally has been a subject of intense debate as leaders work to predict his next steps. While Biden said Tuesday he believed Putin himself was rational, he characterized the Russian leader’s aims in Ukraine — which Putin laid out in an angry speech as he launched the war in February — as ridiculous.

“You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he made after when that decision was being made, he talked about the whole idea of — he was needed to be the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers. I mean, it’s just I just think it’s irrational,” Biden said.

Going further, Biden said Putin wrongly believed Ukrainians would submit to Russian invasion — a misjudgment that’s been disproved by fierce resistance inside the country.

“I think the speech, his objectives were not rational. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.

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