No Coincidence

Vladimir Putin might not agree, but it would be better for everyone to avoid a war. As the Yiddish proverb rooted in history goes, “The worst peace is better than the best war.” Even a quick conflict limited to the border regions could cost 50,000 lives; and the consequences of a great and long war, perhaps a lasting invasion, are best not to even consider. Preparing for every possibility on the Polish side of the border, United States Airborne Division troops are setting up refuge for asylum seekers. Even if only one-tenth of Ukraine’s 44 million residents decide to evacuate, that in itself would upset the current balance in Europe.

It seems that the Russian president is following the advice attributed to Cicero: “Let them hate me as long as they fear me.” For this to be the case, he has to prove his power, but unfortunately, he also has to set an example.

No matter how much one hopes that those who don’t take the possibility of war seriously are right, things have escalated too far for a sudden peace treaty.

There are also internal reasons for Russia’s move. For Putin to retain domestic stability, it is not enough to brutally suppress the opposition; he also needs imperial consciousness. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who initially appeared to seek a peaceful solution, can’t make concessions because nationalists have him by the throat and his rivals are eagerly awaiting his demise. NATO finally seems to make sense again, and Emmanuel Macron found it advantageous to assume the role of a European statesman working to achieve world peace. It’s good for Macron to appear on television as often as possible participating in various summit meetings in advance of the French presidential election in April. And Boris Johnson needs a big crisis to beat, although even that might not save him. Joe Biden is probably not unhappy either that the threat of military incursion is distracting Americans from their own issues.

The fear is justified, for this war would have terrible consequences on the world for decades no matter what has caused it. And if there is no legitimate reason for war, there can always be a random reason for one.

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