PARIS — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a speech on Wednesday that was a reminder of how easily the war in Ukraine could spread, doubled down on his nuclear threat, accused the West of seeking to “destroy” his country, and suggested that Ukrainians are mere pawns of the “military machine of the collective West.”
In a videotaped address to the nation, he effectively conceded that the war he started on Feb. 24 has not gone as he wished. By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight on what he called a 620-mile front, and abandoning the original objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” all of Ukraine, he acknowledged something he had consistently denied: the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukrainian nation.
But Mr. Putin cornered is Mr. Putin at his most dangerous. That was one of the core lessons of his hardscrabble youth that he took from the furious reaction of a rat he cornered on a stairwell in what was then Leningrad.