Human kind may be passing into a savage age. Markers are apparent; life upended by a virus, patterns of vicious and freak weather, social disorder, decline of civility, political degradation and now Russia's mad war of aggression in Europe. Any one is threatening, all of them could drag us out of the peaceful world our generations have enjoyed since the end of the second World War.
We have lived in a rare interval of peace and well being in the span of a human history full of misery, suffering, darkness and brutality.
Within hours of Russia's invasion of Ukraine I sat in a briefing with six of the world's preeminent intelligence and security officers for a hard nosed assessment of where the new war finds us and what risks are ahead.
The recent historic antecedent is Sudetenland in the late 30's. This is not about Ukraine and NATO, it is a manifestation of the Putin doctrine. It is an historic breaking of international law and rules, driven by man with a messianic complex who strives to change history to his shaping, remaking the map of Russia.
The analysis from men who led Britain's MI 6, CIA, Canada's Security Intelligence Service, the British Foreign Office, and Homeland Security says Western response has been strong and united, but it will be tested by challenges, primarily economic costs. Western leadership is compromised by internal political division in the US, new leadership in Germany, Johnson's weak credibility in Britain, impatient domestic response and certitude. Taiwan looms over how this is resolved and they say it is likely to be a long process.
The invasion is a game changer, a disregard for law and is a piece of the rising authoritarian mindset that tramples, and seeks to destroy democratic structures and the rule of law and civil order.
There is a sense Putin is in an isolated state of mind as he demonstrates a messiah complex. He is in a dangerous state. He reads the West as being in a state of decay. The security veterans agree Putin must pay a heavy cost.
The former senior CIA officer said we need to buckle up for a long ride, saying Putin's goals are beyond Ukraine, wanting to build the "Great Russia." Putin thinks "he can out suffer us, out last us and divide us."
One of the men said we need to learn to deal with assertive and regressive leaders, that Putin is not alone.
They say this is an historic fight that can shape how succeeding generations will live, the degree to which law has value and meaning. Citizens should be informed of what is at risk and the cost. The costs will not be equally distributed. Gas and food costs will feed inflation in the US and elsewhere.
They warn of a possible spill over affect, perhaps by something as simple as a mistake. If any NATO nation is violated by cyber or military action, they say NATO must hit back with severity.