A year has passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the world seems further from peace than it did at the war’s outset. President Biden’s speech in Poland on Tuesday and his surprise visit to the Ukrainian president in Kyiv have hardened the tension between Russia and the NATO countries. In apparent response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had suspended his country’s participation in the only remaining nuclear arms treaty between Russia and the United States. This could result in the active resumption of the doomsday arms race.
In his speech on Tuesday, President Biden said that Russia had “committed depravities, crimes against humanity without shame or compunction.” Putin’s forces were guilty of “targeting civilians with death,” using rape as “a weapon of war,” stealing Ukrainian children and targeting civilian sites, including schools and maternity wards, he said. While carrying few official consequences, the president’s allegations support the widely shared view that the war is a test of Western alliances and of global democracy as well.
Sadly, an end to the Ukraine tragedy is not in sight. President Putin sees his war as defense against European and U.S. “aggression” and vowed that Russia would not be defeated. If the 2022 invasion was falsely premised by Mr. Putin as a fight for Russia’s survival, it now could be putting him personally at risk. As many as one million Russians of draft age and some family members have fled the country. And in a recent rant attacking Kremlin military leaders, the billionaire head of a private Russian army looks as if he may have designs on Mr. Putin’s job. Mr. Putin, in turn, has gotten closer to China, perhaps as a hedge against a challenge from within his country. U.S. officials are now worried that China may start delivering weapons and ammunition directly to Russia, which it has not done so far in the war.
These are dangerous times, but the defense of Ukraine remains a necessity.