Many people across the world lost some sleep last week worrying about the prospect of Russian President Vladimir Putin starting a nuclear war.
Their fears are well-founded, it's clear from the way his troops are bombing Ukraine that Putin has aggressive and ever-expanding territorial ambition and no respect at all for human life.
In fact, the sheer ruthlessness of the Russian military campaign reveals Putin's true aim, to expand Russian landholding and bolster his vision of a second iron curtain, regardless of who objects or what it costs them.
What's truly remarkable is how hard it's proving for him to achieve that aim and how united the European Union, the United States, and NATO have been in response to his murderous aggression.
No one is more surprised than Putin himself, he has spent decades (and billions) attempting to destabilize our own politics with his giant propaganda campaigns, including the slanted international news broadcasting he underwrites and his carefully orchestrated election hacking attempts.
But his key objectives have so far failed and since that is clear now, it has forced his hand. He has done one of the things that he has long plotted to, but he has done it in much less auspicious circumstances.
Equally, he has not anticipated the courage and fight in the Ukrainians themselves and he has not anticipated how their courage and fight would unite the globe against him.
As these sad events unfold and he makes his increasingly unhinged threats at us all, a thought keeps coming back to me. I am profoundly relieved that Joe Biden is our president in this perilous moment.
“Freedom will always triumph over tyranny,” Biden said at his impressive State of the Union speech. Biden said Putin "thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met a wall of strength he never imagined."
In the lead-up to Putin's attack on Ukraine, our homegrown conservative politicians lined up to praise him for his supposed strength. Former President Donald Trump described him as a “genius” for hatching the “savvy” plan of invading a sovereign nation on false pretenses, the better to consolidate his own power.
But then, when it became clear that the American public was nauseated by Trump's near sociopathic disinterest in the invasion's cost to Ukrainian life, he was forced to clarify that indeed Putin was a monster and that in retaliation the USA should just paint their fighter jets the colors of the Chinese air force and launch a secret bombing campaign on Moscow, for which Beijing would surely get the blame.
This is moronic nonsense, but 70 percent of Republican voters would still vote for the man who came up with this moronic nonsense if given a chance.
So we need to reflect on Trump's undisguised admiration of this murderous Russian thug who, to achieve his territorial aims, is willing to kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians – men, women, and children - as if it were nothing.
We need to ask ourselves if Trump is as conscienceless as the cruel man he so admires? The answer unfortunately is that for Trump and for the men like him, power is always its own reward, and how you come by it is of much less concern.
So what made me lose some sleep last week was not the increasing prospect of nuclear war. It was the thought that a former US president who openly admires murderous thugs like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, could ever have his hands on our own nuclear launch codes again.
Worse, what really keeps me up at night is the thought that Trump's inner circle, who planned and orchestrated a failed coup and insurrection in the Capitol Building for the first time in our history, including lamentable loss of life, has not yet resulted in one arrest or prosecution.
With the Republican party now split between celebrating or trying to ignore Trump's outrageous coup plot, which some of the more shameless of them have dared to call “legitimate political discourse,” the disarray in the party will not serve them well as they head toward the polls this year.
Like Trump it is very clear the GOP is still more interested in gaining power than in how Trump tried to steal both the election and the presidency, having unarguably lost both.
So what makes us any different from Putin and his might-makes-right doctrine if we allow our own dictators in waiting to upend our democracy in pursuit of their personal aims? That's a question to keep anyone up at night.