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It happened exactly as American intelligence officials said it would; the only unknown was the timing. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin filled in that final detail when he launched an invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea.

Ukrainians who just wanted to live their lives in peace awoke to shells, missiles and air attacks, striking at military bases and airports across the country, and around the capital of Kyiv. Russian troops streamed across multiple borders. The Ukrainian military fought back as best it could. Traffic jams of refugees streamed west.

This unprovoked attack, justified by nothing more than invented grievances, takes the world back to a darker, lawless age. “President Putin has reintroduced war to the European continent,” the leaders of the G7, which includes Canada, said on Thursday.

Mr. Putin’s assault on decency is so outrageous that strongly worded condemnations from the G7, and co-ordinated Canadian, U.S. and European sanctions – on Russia, its banks, its government officials and the oligarchs that benefit from Mr. Putin’s tyranny – feel inadequate.

The Russian president-for-life has priced Western sanctions into his estimate of the costs and benefits of his invasion, and calculates that he will come out ahead. That may be because he believes he can still do business with much of the rest of the world, and in particular China; Moscow and Beijing have recently made a show of closer ties. Russia is also a major oil and gas producer, and both commodities just became more valuable.

Mr. Putin also knows that NATO – the United States, Canada and 26 European countries – will not start a world war over Ukraine. President Joe Biden made that clear again on Thursday, when he repeated his vow that he will not send American troops into a shooting war in Ukraine.

Ukraine itself is not naive on that score. “We do not expect anyone to fight for us,” the country’s ambassador to Washington, Oksana Markarova, said Thursday.

Once again, the world is stuck feeling like a helpless bystander. From Bashar al-Assad’s butchery in Syria, where he remains in power with the support of Russia, to Beijing’s slow-motion sapping of Hong Kong’s autonomy, the past decade has too often seen Western countries looking powerless – and preparing for a flood of refugees.

That outcome is likely in Ukraine. But it is not inevitable.

If sanctions are broad and deep enough to damage the Russian economy and erode Mr. Putin’s ability to finance his war, he may have to rethink his strategy and his goals. How much harm the sanctions do may also depend on how much help China is willing to offer Moscow.

If the West actively works to replace Russian oil and gas with other sources from OPEC, the U.S. and Canada, that could devastate Mr. Putin’s bottom line.

His invasion could also prove to be a miscalculation at home. While he has been able to rig elections and jail or murder most of his political opponents, there were large demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Thursday. It shows that there are Russians who are willing to brave Mr. Putin’s wrath on this issue.

And then there are the Ukrainian people themselves, who are vowing to fight back against the larger and better equipped Russian army. A protracted war would send body bags back to a Russian population that isn’t quite sure why its children are dying in a foreign country – a scenario that Russians remember all too well from Afghanistan.

That means Canada and other Western countries must throw as much material support Ukraine’s way as possible, in the form of money, military advisers, weapons and intelligence. NATO is not at war with Russia, but Ukraine is. The harder Ukrainians fight back, and the longer they hold out, the more difficult it will become for Mr. Putin to maintain his grip on Russia.

Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a bigger gamble than his blitzkrieg takeover of Crimea in 2014. Capturing, pacifying and governing all of Ukraine will be much harder to achieve – as he discovered, also in 2014, when he tried to seize Donetsk and Luhansk. If he fails, and if the cost of failure is high enough, he may have to reconsider. He may even find his hold on power slipping at home.

Ukraine’s friends and allies must do the utmost to make sure that happens.

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