Putin's goal: Convince people there's no such thing as truth

Putin lies, barefacedly and repeatedly. So do his acolytes. Even when the forensic evidence is massive and incontrovertible, Putin tells palpable falsehoods with easy fluency. In March 2014 he insisted that there were no Russian troops in Crimea, claiming that ‘anyone could buy’ Russian military uniforms. Within a month, he publicly thanked the troops that had participated in the annexation. With equal ease, he reversed himself on the presence of regular Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine — after two years of denying they were there, Putin casually acknowledged the truth in 2016.

The point is that lying itself is the message. Putin’s lies are not about concealment but rather about his ability to assert his power over truth itself. He says, now, that the Kremlin had nothing to do with the attack on Sergei Skripal — and if British intelligence officers are convinced that the nerve agent used could only have come from a laboratory tightly controlled by the Russian government, well, that’s their problem. If the British want an explanation for what happened in Salisbury — by midnight on a Tuesday or any other time — why would they come to him? Putin doesn’t need to be honest. He believes that he controls the truth. He can make his own reality.