With Vladimir Putin, one can never be so sure. But with each day that goes by, with Russia inexplicably remaining in Ukraine, and the world responding with an unprecedented cyclone of condemnation and sanctions, it would appear that the Kremlin did not avert its mind to just how forcefully the global response would be to its invasion of its smaller Eastern European neighbour.
Already, the images break the heart: hundreds of civilians including children have been killed with many more critically injured. Many Ukrainian public and residential buildings have been shelled by the Russians. The toll on the Ukrainian military has been similarly heavy even as the country has ridden a wave of global support to dig out a defiance long thought to be lost in ancient battle fields.
The casualties are mounting and there is every reason to believe that at the end of the day, the toll will be monumental. However, one suspects that at the end of the day, a momentous message would have been sent that war mongers like Vladimir Putin would be left in no doubt that when war becomes so blatant, so baleful, the response will be bitter and biting.
Apart from the global show of support and solidarity for Ukraine, countries, institutions and individuals have taken measures that resound in Russia with dire consequences. Many suspect that although Russia has kept a straight face, it must be secretly counting the cost of its invasion of its neighbor with many more sanctions yet to come.
Football governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, have banned the Russian national team and Russian clubs from all their competitions until further notice. Some sporting organizations have scrambled to disassociate themselves from Moscow while some individual athletes have had some of the strongest words possible for Vladimir Putin and his horde of Russian attackers. It is before their own eyes that Russia long suspected to be the last vestige of the Soviet Union is swiftly becoming a pariah.
The economic sanctions have been similarly harsh. The United States has cut off Russia`s Central Bank from dollar transactions as Moscow. The value of the ruble, Russia`s currency, has fallen to historic lows. With many countries poised to pile the sanctions, there is no doubt that pretty soon, Russia will find itself knee deep in alligators. Save for a modicum of sympathy for the Russians who oppose the war, that is what it should be.
As the global order moves towards guaranteeing peace and prosperity for every citizen of the world from Burundi to Burma, all those who foment trouble and create conflicts must be met with the harshest sanctions possible. To serve as a deterrent, they and others of their ilk must be treated like lepers. In this, there can be no compromise.
War creates chaos and pain, subjecting the most vulnerable populations to unspeakable horrors. While the invasion of Ukraine has whipped up global sentiments, the response to similar situations the world over must be universal and ubiquitous. There can be no compromise whatsoever.
For the world to come to relative safety, it is imperative that all those who fan the flames of war the world over are made to account for their startling stupidity. They must be forced to reckon with their actions or at least live under the certainty that all that they do which bring pain to innocent people the world over will be met with the stiffest punishments possible.
Admittedly, this is a tall order for an international order which continues to blow hot and cold at will. But there is encouragement to be drawn from the way in which Russia, despite its vast energy riches and nuclear weapons, has faced a wave of sanction after sanction since the monumental folly of its leaders sent the first armoured tank over its border with Ukraine.
Perhaps, those dictators who hide under supposed democracies to treat other sovereign countries with a lash of scorpions will themselves be dissuaded by a rush of rashes.
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