Most Americans don't seem to be very worried about the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, invading Ukraine, even though Putin has massed over a hundred thousand troops on the Ukraine border, along with everything needed to invade the country that used to be part of the Soviet Union.
But I'm deeply concerned. Here's some reasons.
First, being 73, I grew up during the height of the Cold War. Above-ground nuclear tests were being conducted in Nevada on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains where I lived in California. People were building bomb shelters and stockpiling supplies in case the United and Soviet Union started firing nuclear weapons at each other.
In 1962 an eighth-grade friend and I conducted a "Hines-Hart" poll asking our classmates if they thought a nuclear war would happen soon. I recall that most of them did. Fortunately, they were wrong.
But war with the Soviet Union was a lingering source of anxiety in the 1950's and 60's. I'd look around our concrete block house, trying to figure out where the safest place would be if radioactivity drifted over us following a nuclear exchange.
So when I watched Bill Maher's HBO show last Friday, it was irritating to hear Maher say that he didn't think NATO was needed any more, since NATO was established to prevent the Soviet Union from attacking Europe, and the Soviet Union no longer existed.
I yelled at the TV, "Bill, you idiot, Putin is trying to re-establish the Soviet Union by expanding Russia's sphere of influence in the countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union! That's why NATO is needed now as much as it ever was."
Since Putin is making such a serious threat against Ukraine, which doesn't belong to NATO but has a halfway decent military, there seems little doubt that if NATO didn't exist, the small former Soviet block countries like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would be part of a reconstituted Soviet Union before too long.
Last night my wife and I finished watching Munich: The Edge of War on Netflix. It's a timely movie, having cogent lessons for the Ukraine crisis.
In 1938 Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, that all Germany wanted was some additional room for the German people to live in. So if Hitler could just take over a part of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, that's all he wanted, and peace would reign.
Of course, the peace only lasted a year. Then World War II broke out after Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939.
Putin has already taken over part of eastern Ukraine via thinly-disguised "militia" backed by Russia. He also was able to annex the Crimean Peninsula area of Ukraine in 2014. So far Putin hasn't suffered serious consequences from either move, which gives him confidence he could get away with taking over all of Ukraine.
Biden is doing fairly well in managing the current Ukraine crisis.
However, it bothers me that the Biden administration seems overly concerned about provoking Putin by taking steps to admit Ukraine into NATO, which should have happened after 2014, and imposing tough sanctions on Russia now, rather than after he invades Ukraine.
Neither the United States, nor the world, wants to see the Soviet Union come back to life under Putin. Well, let's make that most of the world. No doubt China and North Korea would like to see Putin take over Ukraine, as this would weaken U.S. influence and hurt Biden's already shaky presidency.
If Putin is able to invade Ukraine without Russia suffering truly horrible consequences, this will embolden other countries to try the same thing with weaker nearby nations. China already is making noises about taking Taiwan by force.
If Putin gets away with invading Ukraine, China will be more likely to do the same with Taiwan. The world will be a much more dangerous place if national borders can be erased by whoever has a large enough military to do the erasing.
Hopefully my worrying about Ukraine is misplaced.
It just seems increasingly unlikely that Putin has gone through such a massive military buildup on Ukraine's border and now will simply walk away from that confrontation without getting major concessions in return -- which the United States correctly doesn't want to give Putin.