Watching the indifferent brutality of Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is sickening, but it’s vital that the world not look away. This is the bloody consequence of unchecked imperialism, and it’s a warning of what will become more common as the multi-decade Pax Americana recedes. There are also stirring examples of heroism that the world shouldn’t forget.
READ MORE OPINION COVERAGE OF THE RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE
Russian troops are closing in on Kyiv, with U.S. officials saying Mr. Putin wants to decapitate the government as quickly as possible. Thousands of paratroopers may be dropped to take the city center after missile and artillery attacks reduce the resistance. The Kremlin signaled it is willing to talk with Ukraine, but only as long as the democratically elected government in Kyiv surrenders.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has stayed in Kyiv and rallied his countrymen to resist. In a moment that should haunt European leaders, Mr. Zelensky told them on a video call that “this might be the last time you see me alive.” U.S. intelligence believes the Russians have a kill list of Ukrainian officials, and everything the U.S. has said about Mr. Putin’s plans has turned out to be true. He has proven many times that assassination is central to his business model.
Ukraine’s forces are putting up brave resistance despite being overwhelmed in firepower. One soldier sacrificed himself to blow up a bridge to stop a Russian tank column. Another offered an expletive to a Russian gunboat demanding surrender before he and a dozen others were killed by shelling. Europe and the U.S. should be ashamed for not doing more to help Ukrainians defend themselves.
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The wars of recent decades have largely been fought in the Middle East or Afghanistan, often clandestinely with special forces away from the cameras. They have been horrible but have been wars to defeat terrorist insurgencies, topple dangerous dictators, or defend against missile attacks as in Israel.
This is a war of imperial conquest by a stronger nation subjugating the weak. Westerners who have lived in peaceful comfort for decades should absorb the awful lesson.