Back in 2014, John McCain – the now-deceased Arizona senator, former Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam war hero – mocked Vladimir Putin’s Russia as “a gas station run by a mafia masquerading as a country.”

Though Russians have an ancient national identity, McCain’s jibe was on the mark. As a 21st century political entity stretching from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, there is much lacking. Without vast oil reserves, the Russian economy would hardly exist and Russia’s Potemkin village of a government is really a kleptocratic police state dominated by a single cruel tyrant with delusions of grandeur.

Now that tyrant finds himself bogged down in what he thought would be a lightning conquest of Ukraine, resorting to shooting missiles at refugees and maternity hospitals in a savage attempt to impose his will. In response – and in addition to many other aggressive economic sanctions – President Joe Biden has announced Americans will no longer be customers at the big Russian gas station. Simultaneously, the European Union announced plans to cut oil and gas purchases from Russia by two-thirds by the end of the year.

Tragically, the Ukrainians do not have that much time. Even with the Russian economy in freefall, Putin is unlikely to halt his rampage. Like an unhinged mafia boss whose criminal enterprise is coming apart around him, he will kill with increased fervor and, in the process, will make us all despairing witnesses to his war crimes.

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