It’s been six weeks since President Joe Biden’s videoconference with Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine. Since then, Putin’s saber-rattling has only gotten louder.
The Kremlin has been moving troops and military equipment into Belarus, a faithful Moscow ally that borders Ukraine on the north. Moscow also has been reportedly emptying out its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv — a move perhaps meant to intimidate, perhaps meant to ready for a full-scale invasion. Ukrainian authorities fear Russian hackers have planted destructive malware in the country’s computer networks, and are waiting for the go-ahead to activate.
And ominously, Russian officials have hinted about shifting nuclear weapons to locations not far from the U.S. coastline — a prospect unnervingly reminiscent of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. “I don’t want to confirm anything or rule anything out,” Sergei Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, answered when asked in Geneva whether the Kremlin was thinking about deploying military infrastructure in Cuba or Venezuela.
Putin wants all American nuclear weapons removed from Europe, and an assurance that Western troops will no longer be deployed in NATO countries that once were Warsaw Pact states.
Putin’s actions over the years have forced NATO to once again regard Russia as an existential threat. It’s why the U.S. and its Western allies must show far more resolve against Putin than they did when he stole Crimea from Ukraine. What form that resolve takes remains to be seen, though harsh sanctions such as cutting off Russia from the global financial system, along with fully arming the Ukrainian insurgency that would follow any invasion, should be part of the arsenal. Biden, NATO and the rest of the West cannot afford to give Putin any quarter.
— Chicago Tribune