Addressing his nation on Thursday, a buoyant Russian President Vladimir Putin ridiculed the very notion that he might attack Europe.

Not only was that idea nonsense, he said, but it’s the West that was picking targets to attack in Russia, at the risk of nuclear Armageddon. It’s tempting to roll your eyes and move on. Yet the question of what the Kremlin does next if it wins in Ukraine is too important to ignore.

A debate is underway, particularly in Washington, on whether to pressure Ukraine into a negotiated settlement with Russia or help its continued defense. If Putin has no further ambitions beyond what he has seized in Ukraine already, then the interests of Europe and the U.S. might indeed be best served by forcing Kyiv to settle by starving it of the means to fight — as brutal a betrayal as that would be.