When Vladimir Putin escalates his war, the world must meet him - Economist Leader - 05.03.22
Muttering nuclear threats, Russia’s president vows to prevail in Ukraine whatever it takes.
MARVEL AT THE heroism and resilience of Ukraine. In the first days of war, the armoured might of Vladimir Putin shrivelled before the courage of the nation he had attacked. In the face of Mr Putin’s invasion, the Ukrainian people have discovered they are ready to die for the idea that they should choose their own destiny. To a cynical dictator that must be incomprehensible. To the rest of humanity it is an inspiration.
If only this week’s bravery were enough to bring the fighting to an end. Alas, Russia’s president will not withdraw so easily. From the start, Mr Putin has made clear that this is a war of escalation—a hygienic word for a dirty and potentially catastrophic reality. At its most brutal, escalation means that, whatever the world does, Mr Putin threatens to be more violent and more destructive even, he growls, if that means resorting to a nuclear weapon. And so he insists that the world back off while he sharpens his knife and sets about his slaughter.
Such a retreat must not happen. Not only because to abandon Ukraine to its fate would be wrong, but also because Mr Putin will not stop there. Escalation is a narcotic. If Mr Putin prevails today, his next fix will be in Georgia, Moldova or the Baltic states. He will not stop until he is stopped.
Escalation is at the heart of this war because it is how Mr Putin tries to turn defeat into victory. The first wave of his invasion proved as rotten as the cabal who planned it—just like his earlier efforts to suborn Ukraine. Mr Putin seems to have believed his own propaganda that the territory he has invaded is not a real country.
The initial assault, which led with botched helicopter strikes and raids by lightly armed units, was conceived for an adversary that would implode. Instead, Ukrainian spirits have flourished under fire. The president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been transformed into a war leader who embodies his people’s courage and defiance.
The article ends with these words:
A palace coup may come to seem more plausible as the horror of what Mr Putin has done sinks in. The economy faces disaster. Russian military casualties are growing. Russians’ Ukrainian kin are being massacred in a conflict unleashed to satisfy one man. Even now brave Russians are taking to the streets to protest against a crime that stains their country. In a deep sense, Mr Putin’s needless war is one that neither he nor Russia can win.
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