Vladimir Putin is a fortunate man. One hundred days into his genocidal assault on Ukraine, many important people in the West are fretting not that he'll win his war — but that he'll lose. It's quite a diverse club. French President Emmanuel Macron, who fancies himself a Putin whisperer, warned again last week that "we must not humiliate Russia." Instead, we must reward Putin's pitiless efforts to erase a peaceful, democratic neighbor from the map by awarding him a nice chunk as a consolation prize: the Donbas and southern Ukraine along the Black Sea. Henry Kissinger, the ancient guru of realpolitik, has joined Macron in urging Ukrainian concessions. So has The New York Times editorial board, which recently advised Ukraine it will need to make "painful territorial decisions" in exchange for peace. On the isolationist right, America Firsters from Sen. Rand Paul to Tucker Carlson to Donald Trump have denounced U.S. military aid to Kyiv as a waste of money for a fight that is not ours.
In a ruthless world, realpolitik is sometimes unavoidable. In this case, it requires shrugging acceptance of the unprovoked slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians, the remorseless razing of dozens of cities, and the more than 1,000 credible reports of war crimes. After these atrocities, we should be concerned that the butcher gets to save face? It is, in fact, not realistic to believe any concessions will end Putin's messianic ambitions to absorb Ukraine into "holy Russia." A deeply cynical, KGB-trained liar, he will happily violate any treaty naïve "realists" force Ukraine to sign. If there is a brief peace, Putin will use it to rebuild his battered army and reinvade until Kyiv succumbs. He is counting on nuclear blackmail, high gas prices, and food shortages to erode the West's resolve to stand with Ukraine and democracy against predatory autocracy. It's critically important to prove Putin wrong, even if he finds it humiliating.
This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.
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