Opinion: Why Queen Elizabeth’s strength is Putin’s weakness

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) military exercise in far eastern Russia, outside Vladivostok, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. The weeklong exercise that began Thursday is intended to showcase growing defense ties between Russia and China and also demonstrate that Moscow has enough troops and equipment to conduct the massive drills even as its troops are engaged in military action in Ukraine. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Why is Vladimir Putin failing to win his war in Ukraine? The answers multiply: hubris, corruption and incompetence on the Russian side, military valor, canny leadership and American munitions on the Ukrainian side.

But the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president's important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.

Legitimacy is not the same thing as power. It's what enables power to be exercised effectively amid trials and transitions, setbacks and successions. It's what grounds political authority even when that authority isn't delivering prosperity and peace. It's what rulers reach for when they call their societies to sacrifice.

In most of the world today there are only two solid foundations for legitimacy: democracy and national self-determination.