Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s daily videos highlighting his country’s heroism make it impossible to look away from the horror of the Russian invasion.
But he’s also increasingly running headlong into the war’s harsh reality: President Joe Biden and European leaders face political and geopolitical red lines that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a nuclear-armed tyrant, simply does not in his relentless destruction.
Soaring oil prices are also playing into the underlying equation of the war: Will Western pressure strangle the Russian economy and force Putin’s hand before Ukraine and its people are destroyed or driven to a mass refugee exodus? And how long can public opinion in the US and Europe hold firm?
Call to the world: Zelensky’s poignant appeals have made lawmakers in the US and Europe cry on video calls, revived the West from its post-Cold War slumber and captivated the world with his defense of democracy. He’s the antipode to the cruelty of Putin. If one man ever changed the world, few have done so as quickly as Zelensky.
In the latest video message, Zelensky left his bunker and appeared defiantly in his government office, lauding Ukrainians protesting against Russian troops.
“(They say), ‘I’m here, it’s mine, and I won’t give it away. My city. My community. My Ukraine,’ ” Zelensky said in the message on Monday.
The West hitting a wall: But nearly two weeks after the invasion began, the question for the West is becoming what options there are for stepping up the economic heat rising on Russia while avoiding a parallel military escalation.
And there are increasing signs that for all his heroism, Zelensky may be coming up against the West’s prudent desire to avoid triggering a worstcase scenario that could lead to a third world war.
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