I rarely agree with the spin that the European Union puts on the situation in Ukraine, but in this case, the EU Secretary General seems to be making a good point. There has been a definite shift in both the tone taken by Moscow and the tactics Russia is employing since the announcement of modern tanks being sent to Kyiv. Stefano Sannino said on Friday that Vladimir Putin’s focus has changed from simply trying to hold or retake territory in the Crimean region or battering Ukraine’s infrastructure. He is now expanding his efforts to turn this into “a war against NATO  and the West.” Isn’t this something that military analysts have been warning us about since the beginning of the invasion? (Associated Press)

A senior EU official said Friday that Russia has taken its war against Ukraine to “a different stage” by making indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets, while criticizing Moscow for triggering recent moves by Germany and the United States to send advanced tanks to Ukraine.

Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, defended German and U.S. provisions of the military equipment to Ukraine, and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging a war on NATO and the West.

Sannino, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, said Putin had “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”

Just as a reminder, when I wrote about the reasoning behind the decision to send tanks to Ukraine, we pointed out that Russia responded almost immediately and without ambiguity.

None of this excuses Russia’s actions, of course. Putin was the one who decided to invade Ukraine to begin with so the results rest on his shoulders. No matter how many issues some of us may have with Zelensky’s famously corrupt government, that doesn’t give Russia the right to try to wipe out the Ukrainian government and destroy its infrastructure.

I also take issue with the word games that Moscow is playing. How does Putin justify drawing the line as tanks being “direct involvement” in the war? Why weren’t Patriot missile systems direct involvement? For that matter, if this is how we’re defining the terms, the very first American rifle that fired an American bullet at a Russian conscript would have been direct involvement. It’s a distinction without a difference.

But with all of that said, we also can’t allow ourselves to be blind to the underlying realities here. Putin has said all along that efforts to retake any Crimean territory and drive Russia out of those regions would be a red line in the sand for him. Further, if he’s going to declare that those tanks mean (in his mind) that American and NATO forces are directly engaging against Russia’s troops, then we are pretty much on the doorstep of world war 3.

If we allow things to reach that stage, there could be some mushroom clouds rising, either in Ukraine or elsewhere. I generally don’t pay much attention to the hyperbole surrounding the doomsday clock (which was just moved up to the 90-second mark), but we’re clearly approaching some sort of breaking point. Before we get to the point where Russia fires the first shot in anger at any allied targets (at which point it will be too late to turn back), shouldn’t Congress be getting together to put aside all partisan differences and take a vote on this? If we allow the White House and the rest of the NATO leadership to sleepwalk our way into a nuclear war (something I was warning everyone about almost a year ago), a lot of people will have much to answer for, assuming there are many of us left alive to hear it.

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