Russian President Vladimir Putin has succeeded in uniting the world in a way no modern leader has.
War in the world of social media is not a pretty site. Everyone knows someone.
The basements are full of women and children, the very old and the very young.
The men have gone off to fight — not just men who are soldiers, but doctors and lawyers, plumbers and printers, accountants and musicians, taking up arms.
The oligarchs have come home to fight.
A country that most Americans probably couldn't find on a map has become the repository of the hopes and dreams of freedom-loving people.
Today, we are all Ukrainians. It is hard to watch the news.
It is almost as hard not to. How can this be, in the modern world, that a country simply invades another country because it can?
Russia was not at risk from Ukraine. Ukraine had not announced its intention to drive Russia to the sea. Russia is not even trying to explain itself to the world because there is no explanation.
Only a madman would do this, only someone so determined to show the world his power, to flex his outdated military muscle, to show his so-called might that he will sacrifice his people for his ego.
The most frightened people I know are the ones who know him best, because they believe there is simply nothing he will not do to satisfy that ego.
After 20 years in power, he has long since removed from his circle anyone with the independence or courage to oppose him when he is wrong.
He is surrounded instead by those whose very survival depends on his.
They would be the last to stop him, or to try. The only hope, they say, is that he is only pretending to be a madman, and those who have seen his punitive streak over the years believe the worst.
And so what?
Does knowing you are dealing with a madman — as opposed to a man only pretending to be mad — change the way you deal with him?
Does knowing that Putin is capable of mass murder change the way we deal with a mass murderer? I know that we never negotiate with terrorists until we do, until doing so is better than not.
But, when is that moment?
My Russian friends fear that President Joe Biden will be naive, that he will believe that Putin thinks the way he does when he doesn't, not at all. I try to comfort them.
Biden is a careful president. Maybe that's what Putin is counting on.
He will not risk World War III. He will deal with Putin cautiously.
But what is he to do? Recognize a puppet government in Ukraine?
Let Putin win? No can do.
I reassure my Russian friends that surely there are those in the American intelligence world who are telling the president that Putin is the unstable egomaniac that many Russians believe him to be. In my experience, it is a rare situation where all the plausible views are not presented.
But then decisions must be made, based on more intelligence than my friends and I have access to, and we have no choice but to trust that they are made with good intelligence, which is not always the case.
COVID-19 was scary. Nuclear war is scarier.
Our poor children. There are no answers except to be grateful.
We take our freedom for granted. Basements are for rec rooms.
My grandfather was born in Kyiv. I could be in a basement, too.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.