Putin just dramatically raised the stakes. What should the U.S. do?

Escalating is easy. Prudence is difficult.

Vladimir Putin.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

Once the cycle of escalation starts, it's hard to stop.

So it's both alarming and unsurprising that Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Sunday put his country's nuclear forces on alert, pushing back against the flood of sanctions and angry rhetoric from Western leaders that has followed his decision to invade Ukraine. "Top officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country," Putin said. He might have been referring to last week's comment from the French foreign minister that "the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance," which itself was a response to Putin's own nuclear-tinged warning against outside countries interfering in his war. Every tit-for-tat heating up of rhetoric just ratchets the tensions a little bit higher.

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