Analysis: Putin presents a profound threat to peace in Europe as ‘drumbeat of war’ sounds on Russia-Ukraine border

Today that peace isHe concluded “our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries have their origins in the same sources … true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.” As commander of the world’s fifth largest army, and barely halfway through an expected almost four-decade rule, Putin is setting the stage to stake his claim just as his ancestors did, The same day, Ukrainians woke to a massive cyberattack taking down government websites. Russia hasn’t claimed responsibility, but Europe’s top diplomat Josep Borrell left little doubt who he thinks was behind the attack, saying, “It’s difficult to say [who is behind it]. I can’t blame anybody as I have no proof, but we can imagine.”By Russian design or the stuttering effects of stalling diplomacy, the talks are seeding spiraling consequences. Borrell promised counter measures to the cyberattack, “We are going to mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine to tackle this cyberattack. Sadly, we knew it could happen.” In the US, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday suggested Putin may have given up on talks with none scheduled in the days ahead, and on Friday the US raised the stakes further, charging that Moscow had “prepositioned a group of operatives” to execute “an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian-speaking people in Ukraine” to create a reason for “a potential invasion,” according to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby. The Kremlin strenuously denied the accusation.What happens next?On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited Biden and Putin to hold three-way talks to discuss the security situation, according to Ukrainian state media outlet Ukrinform. Lavrov has stated he believes NATO needs to make the next move, “We are waiting for answers from our colleagues, written answers, put on paper.”But Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, told CNN on Wednesday that it’s up to Russia to respond to NATO’s diplomatic outreach on arms control talks and other reciprocal military agreements. “We are waiting for the answer to our proposal to convene a meeting addressing a wide range of important issues for European security,” he said.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also indicated the US is waiting on the Russian President. “Is he going to choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue to resolve some of these problems? Or is he going to pursue confrontation and aggression?” the secretary asked Thursday.The wait is re-awakening uncomfortable memories for Europeans. Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod branded Putin’s actions “totally unacceptable,” saying he is “trying to take us back to the coldest, darkest days of the Cold War.”But with Putin seemingly adamant he will not back down, history’s shadow is pressing on the shoulders of leaders across the continent who are becoming increasingly aware that fateful decisions may lie ahead.