By bombing the power grid meant to sustain Ukrainians through dark, cold months, Vladimir Putin is inflicting some of the most barbaric wartime conditions experienced by civilians in Europe for decades.
The use of winter as a weapon of war is designed to break the will of a nation that has humbled Russian forces – and to test the generosity of Western publics footing the bill for Ukraine’s defense. And it is forcing President Joe Biden and other leaders to make another round of adjustments to the lifeline of armaments and aid sustaining Ukraine’s resistance.
The intensity of Moscow’s deliberate targeting of civilians has also revived questions over if and when the world should press for a diplomatic end to the war as well as a rising domestic political debate about how long multi-billion dollar aid must last. This pressure, notably inside the incoming Republican House majority, often spikes alongside Putin’s calculated spurts of nuclear brinkmanship and whenever fears rise that the war will spill into NATO territory.
These questions will be at the center of talks Thursday between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, the two most critical leaders of the West, who will be essential to any eventual ceasefire and who have at times differed on whether diplomacy can work with a leader as ruthless as Putin.