A full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, writes Matthew Continetti, was one of those historical events that “seem impossible right up to the minute that they take place.” After surveying the predictions of various experts that no such thing would happen, Continetti then examines the evidence that it would:
Putin . . . chose to follow the logic he had set out in a 5,000-word essay published in July 2021. Its title was “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” It’s where Putin made his ghoulish case that the borders of Ukraine are illegitimate. Where he asserted that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” Where he admonished readers that the Ukrainian nation-state exists at Russia’s pleasure.
In launching his war, Putin did exactly what he had shown every indication of preparing to do for some time. Why, then, was it so difficult for so many experts to take him seriously? . . . “In the face of unfathomable evil,” wrote the late Charles Krauthammer, “decent people are psychologically disarmed.” And when autocrats resort to violence, citizens of democracies that enjoy the rule of law are shocked.
With this in mind, Continetti considers the threats made by the rulers of China and Iran:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spent decades calling for the end of Israel. Last May, for example, Khamenei gave a lesson in Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism when he said that Iran has no greater enemy than Israel and that “the fight against this despotic regime is the fight against oppression and the fight against terrorism. And this is a public duty to fight against this regime.”
Even as President Biden punished Russia for its actions, however, he was relying on Russia as the intermediary in nuclear talks with an Iranian government that poses an existential threat to Israel. Even as Biden rallied the world in support of Ukrainian freedom, his intermediaries prepared to lift sanctions on the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The same administration that turned out to be right about Vladimir Putin’s program in Ukraine lives in la-la-land when it comes to the stated intentions of a theocracy whose malign behavior in the Middle East aims at regional hegemony and the eradication of the Jewish state.