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Editorial: Confronting Putin over Ukraine attack will have costs, but solidarity essential

Europe and the United States are strengthening their diplomatic efforts as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues to intensify. Meanwhile, the war is beginning to look like it will be a long one, and this demands the international community increases the pressure on Moscow.

    Ukrainian civilian casualties are mounting, and the number of refugees is swelling. Russian forces are shelling urban residential neighborhoods and even targeting nuclear power facilities. The situation has broken out of the bounds of the rational.

    The world's response to all this has been stiffer sanctions on Russia, mostly by the European Union and the United States, while multinational corporations are shuttering their Russian operations one after another. The international community is clearly calling for an immediate halt to the attacks.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has turned a deaf ear to the global uproar, and pressed on with his merciless war on Ukraine. His out-of-control behavior must be stopped as soon as possible.

    In his recent State of the Union address to Congress, U.S. President Joe Biden declared that "freedom will always triumph over tyranny." He added that Putin had "badly miscalculated," and "met a wall of strength he never imagined. He met the Ukrainian people." Biden went on to say that the U.S. and its allies were providing a broad range of support for Ukraine.

    It's also true, though, that the U.S. "badly miscalculated." It attempted to head off the Russian invasion by releasing confidential intelligence showing it was coming, but Russia just rolled over these attempts at restraint. Moscow interpreted the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as evidence of Washington's waning power, and thus to scoff at the potential of a strong U.S. response to an invasion of Ukraine.

    The United States bears a heavy responsibility for how this has unfolded. And now it needs a comprehensive strategy to stall Putin in his tracks. First, the defensive capabilities of the U.S.'s European allies need to be upgraded, and more support given to Ukraine. This can then be leveraged to work up diplomatic efforts to restrict Russian actions.

    The U.S. military is providing effective weapons and equipment to Ukraine to fight the ongoing ground war. It is important to show through action that the united front against the invasion will not waver. The U.S. is banning all imports of Russian crude oil, while the U.K. is phasing out oil imports from Russia by the year's end. These moves are designed to deal a powerful blow to the Russian economy, but are also pushing up global oil prices, and will have a serious impact on the global economy.

    The Middle East holds the key. There must be a very fast policy rethink to bring oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been growing closer to Moscow, back to the side of the United States.

    Meanwhile, Russia has been building strong ties with African and Central and South American dictatorships in part by supplying them weapons. There needs to be measures to cut those connections.

    The road to toppling a dictator who has destroyed the peace, and then restoring liberty, is a hard one. But we cannot lose heart. This will not be possible without U.S. leadership.

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