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Russia's headlong rush

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

Barely back from a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where all his partners called for de-escalation, Putin decided to mobilise his population, to whom he had promised to do nothing.

Extending the scope of the war to NATO countries, he undertook to cut all bridges with the West by sabotaging the Nord Stream gas pipelines, a likely prelude to other warlike actions on European territory.

The precipitous announcement of the annexation of four half-occupied and still unconquered regions of Ukraine - a first in history - was a further escalation of this illegal aggression, which was once again condemned by the UN Secretary General and, very soon, by a large majority of the members of the General Assembly. This sequence gave rise to a pathetic staging, an occasion for a delirious speech pointing out his real enemy: the West.

Finally, the nuclear threats were enough to convince the most sceptical that no possibility of discussion could, for the moment, bring peace.

This dangerous headlong rush is helping to bind Europeans and Westerners together. They will not allow borders to be changed by force on a continent that has seen so many conflicts. They cannot accept either the horrors of a poorly run army, or the repeated and shameless lies of a dictator under threat, or of course nuclear blackmail.

As if he believed his own lies, disconnected from reality, he perseveres in his errors, whether on the ground where his army is constantly retreating, in international forums where he is only supported by a small club of rogue states, or in public opinion which does not accept his war of aggression.

By attacking Ukraine, Putin has obtained the opposite of what he wanted: the defeat of his troops, the strengthening of NATO, the awakening of the West and the European Union, the banning of a humiliated Russia, economic sanctions that will take it back thirty years, the valorisation of the United Nations Charter and the reminder of the universality of the principles that it sets out and which he denounces. The Pope himself is calling on him to back down.

Putin is thus the most ardent promoter of a European unity that is still slow to be finalised and of a Western solidarity that is too often underestimated. It is now time to put them to use to dissuade him from continuing down this path, which is fatal, first of all for his country and for himself, but dangerous for Europe and the world.

If we are to postpone the apocalypse that he is threatening us with and avoid the irreparable, we must - alas - raise our voices and convince him that we will respond with force to any further escalation.