May 23, 2022 6:15 AM EDT

Perhaps Vladimir Putin’s true mission is to teach lessons. To everyone—from world leaders and pundits to ordinary people. He has been especially good at this in 2022.

He reminded us once again that a path that begins with “just a little election rigging” always ends with a dictatorship. And dictatorship always leads to war. It’s a lesson we shouldn’t have forgotten.

World leaders have hypocritically talked for years about a “pragmatic approach” and the benefits of international trade. In so doing, they enabled themselves to benefit from Russian oil and gas while Putin’s grip on power grew stronger. Between sanctions and military and economic aid, this war will cost hundreds of times more than those lucrative oil and gas contracts, the signing of which used to be celebrated with champagne.

Read More: The Man Putin Fears

Putin has reminded us all of the “duck test”: if something looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The very same logic should be applied in this case: if someone destroys the independent media, organizes political assassinations, and sticks to his imperial delusions, then he is a madman capable of causing a bloodbath in the center of Europe in the 21st century. And you really shouldn’t embrace him at international forums.

Right now, Putin is also teaching a lesson on how to nullify economic gains made by one’s country over the course of 20 years.

However, the answer to the main question he poses—how to stop an evil madman with an army, nuclear weapons, and membership in the U.N. Security Council—is yet to be answered. And we are the ones who must find that answer.

Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, is serving nine years in a maximum-security penal colony

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Simu Liu
Tim Cook
Mary J. Blige
Candace Parker
Volodymyr Zelensky
5 stories
EDIT POST