It's should not be very hard to understand this, but Vladimir Putin has always been America's mortal enemy.
He is not, as Donald Trump has stupidly insisted, a “genius” who made a “savvy” move to invade Ukraine by force.
Instead, Putin is a ruthless and cruel authoritarian who wants to end democracy and freedom wherever it lives. Read that back again until you understand what his agenda is. It means Putin is not just coming for Ukraine, he is coming for democracy itself, and he opened the first fronts in this global war many war years ago.
Yes, I said global war. I'm sad to say that, just like at the start of the pandemic here in March 2020, there are still quite a lot of people who are reluctant to see what's staring them in the face. This isn't a faraway conflict that we can quickly memory hole, this is World War Three. It's already here.
Historians will argue where it began, but the FBI can easily put a date on it: 2014. In that year, the Muller Report later concluded, Putin's Russia launched a sophisticated disinformation campaign against us through the computer apps in our own pockets: Facebook, Twitter, et al.
Do you remember the word the then GOP-controlled Congress used to call these propaganda attacks? They called it “meddling.” But meddling is something your grandmother does to ensure you marry the girl she thinks is right for you, what Putin did was use internet technology to push emotively visceral lies and spin before your grandma, grandpa, aunts, and uncles on their personal iPhones to slowly alter how they perceived reality and their own nation.
So those weren't just political “ads.” They were the first front of a giant disinformation campaign to destabilize and politically divide us, the better to pick us all off. They were a sophisticated information war conducted from giant computer silos in Russia and by its paid agents overseas.
They hacked our tech and even our voting systems in all fifty states. Putin clearly won that propaganda war. He got his man. He even convinced the majority of voters here that what he did here had not mattered.
It did matter though because yes these were sophisticated national attacks and yes this has now become an open war and yes it is global in reach and yes it started years ago and yes we have been far too slow to understand how late the hour actually is.
Ukraine knows. They are at the tip of the spear this week in a fight for their freedom and existence. But that fight has rapidly spread beyond their borders.
Europe has just sent fighter jets, weapons, and aid to the Ukrainian front, they have closed off their airspace to all Russian airlines, they have closed Russia's access to the SWIFT banking system, they have targeted their obscenely rich oligarchs and effectively scuttled Russia's economy in angry protest. In less than a week, they have isolated Russia in the way we do other rogue actors like North Korea.
The shock of the strength of the retaliation must have come like a slap to the face to Putin. He depended on our stupid self-interest to make us look the other way, the way all true bullies do.
But instead, most of the world has responded with disgust and outrage and crucially with solidarity with Ukraine, reforging long broken links and standing shoulder to shoulder against an aggressor whose ultimate intentions are all too clear.
The most defining thing about Putin is his mask of a face. He has always concealed his true intentions with the practiced ease of a born KGB agent. But the unexpected fight the Ukrainians have given him has done the near impossible, it has unmasked his true intent.
The nearby democracies now know they are just the first front in what President Biden has wisely called Putin's attempt to restore the wider Soviet Union. They know if Ukraine falls then democracy in the region will fall after them and a second iron curtain will slowly descend.
This great unmasking has shown just how contemptuous Putin is of his democratic enemies, how little he thinks of our ability to understand or resist him. After all, he has succeeded so far, and without much push back from the west, so this latest unity of resistance must astound and confound him.
We were supposed to fall in disunity, not rally internationally as one. So there is much to fear ahead, but there is much to hope for too.