Realism should guide the West's response to Russia's invasion

The Ukraine cause is just, but moral imperatives cannot be allowed to drive foreign policy, as the Iraq war showed.

The scene outside a shopping centre in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv on March 21 after shelling by Russian forces. PHOTO: REUTERS
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(NYTIMES) - The Russian invasion of Ukraine has transformed the face of global geopolitics. Two weeks ago, the West stood distracted, uncertain and divided; now it has embarked on a determined, even frenzied, effort to stymie Russian power. The list of Western actions grows longer by the day: Some 20 countries have sent weapons to Ukraine. More than 17,000 foreign-supplied antitank weapons now flood the battlefield. Even more countries have united to levy more than 3,600 sanctions against Russian individuals and companies. Seven of Russia's largest banks have been removed from the Swift interbank messaging system. The US dollar and euro reserves of the Russian central bank have been frozen. American, Canadian and European airspaces have been closed to all Russian planes.

The extraordinary actions of the Western powers are a natural and proportional response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's reckless resort to force. Yet it is precisely their naturalness that should make us wary. When disaster breaks, leaders do not have time to dissect the fine print of every policy option presented to them. Crisis cascades: Each update from the front presents decision makers with a new demand for action. In such circumstances, it is natural for the snap assessment or the emotionally charged judgment to eclipse the careful calculation of cost and benefit.

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