There is only one sure way out of this conflict without escalation.

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Americans and everyone else around the world hoping for a return to pre-COVID19 normalcy in 2022 were bitterly disappointed two weeks ago when Russian President and former KGB strongman Vladimir Putin unexpectedly decided to invade Ukraine.

Well, it wasn’t completely unexpected. Not everyone was caught be surprise.

For weeks prior to the attack, the Biden Administration had been warning the world of an imminent incursion into the Ukraine by Russian military forces. Plenty of smart people in media- conservatives, progressives and independents alike- just couldn’t believe it.

Perhaps they didn’t want to.

“The President and his party are merely trying on a distraction heading into a tough mid-term,” these media cynics insisted in near unison. Their theory- that the Russian invasion was an invention of the Biden Administration for reasons best known only to itself and Vladimir Putin had no plans whatsoever to move on Ukraine- was a popular one with good reason.

It was much more appealing than the alternative.

The Biden Administration was, as everyone grudgingly acknowledges in retrospect, absolutely correct and telling the truth about Vladimir Putin’s imminent plans to invade the Ukraine. U.S. intelligence had the right of it and plenty of other nations added warnings as well.

Even they probably hoped to be wrong.

The idea was simply too unappealing. A full-scale military invasion of the Ukraine would throw the world into chaos; a chaos no nation really needed after the two-year ravages of a global pandemic.

Russia is no exception and has suffered the slings and arrows of COVID19 along with the rest of the world.

Foreign policy experts, government officials, journalists and human rights organizations just couldn’t see any logic in a Russian invasion of the Ukraine in February 2022.

Why would Vladimir Putin elect to put the Russian people through the pains of an economic crisis triggered by an unnecessary act of military aggression?

A dire economic crisis- much like the one Russia is facing right now as it becomes a pariah state sagging under the weight of sanctions, censure and expulsion from the international community- was the very least of the consequences Vladimir Putin was likely to face when he moved on Ukraine.

It didn’t make a bit of logical sense: Which is why so many people missed it.

Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine doesn’t make any sense because it wasn’t at all logical. This act of military aggression and Putin’s threats of unleashing nuclear war if NATO backs the Ukraine with military reinforcement terrifies us because it defies all reason.

We sense instinctively that it must be the work of a madman- one who might be capable of anything.

The biggest shock to the global society system in this unprovoked attack on Ukraine is that Russia wasn’t even considered by most authorities to be the country most in danger of starting a war.

Iran has certainly been of far more concern in recent years and remains so- perhaps more so now than ever. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is a grave threat to the world’s peace, as was his father before him. China has been edging ever closer to “annexing” Taiwan, a matter of grave concern to world governments reluctant to see the applecart of the global marketplace upset.

Extremist terrorist groups are making a major comeback in the Middle East; if any one of those groups were to get their hands on a nuclear weapon…it might yet be a doomsday scenario for a vulnerable nation like Israel.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine plunging Europe and the world into a global conflict wasn’t even under consideration.

Nevertheless, while the commentariat waxes poetic about Volodymyr Zelensky being the Ukraine’s answer to George Washington and laments the advent of social media- with its scary erosion of careful, thoughtful, well-considered diplomacy- the world seems to be careening ever closer to war.

Even the news today that Vladimir Putin has offered four conditions to an immediate end to the conflict was met with somewhat less than optimism.

Putin doesn’t exactly have an especially good track record with honesty of late. From Moscow’s many heated denials that any invasion was imminent in Ukraine, to his sit-down with French President Emmanuel Macron to agree to a ceasefire, Putin’s credibility isn’t what it was before this conflict.

And Putin’s credibility wasn’t all that great before Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine two weeks ago.

His bad habit of poisoning Russian dissidents living abroad hasn’t left him in good stead with world leaders. Russia has also been accused of hacking and election interference in recent years.

Whatever Putin’s crimes- and after this conflict that list is likely to be quite long- short of a full-scale military effort backing Ukrainian forces against Russian ones, there is little the world can do but watch in horror.

The responsibility of removing Vladimir Putin, whatever hotheaded war-hawks in Congress and elsewhere might say, falls to one group alone: The Russian people.

Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine was an affront to world peace, it was a slap in the face of globalization; it was a contemptuous spat at the feet of world leaders.

But most of all, this act of outright insanity was a betrayal of the Russia people, who could probably do with a period of peace, stability and prosperity as much as the rest of us, if not more.

Rulers like Vladimir Putin need the consent of the governed to carry out their dastardly schemes for world domination. Since it is the Russian people who will suffer most from this crisis, they are best suited to depose Vladimir Putin and usurp his authority.

To avoid war, to preserve peace, the world must stand down in this conflict and the Russian people must stand up.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)