Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 was the beginning of a third world war that has the potential to destroy our civilization.

The invasion was preceded by a long meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Feb. 4 — the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations and the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. At the end of that meeting, the two men released a 5,000-word, carefully drafted document announcing a close partnership between their two countries. The document is stronger than any treaty and must have required detailed negotiations in advance.

I was surprised that Xi appeared to have given Putin carte blanche to invade and wage war against Ukraine. He must be very confident that his confirmation as China’s ruler for life later this year will be a mere formality. Having concentrated all power in his own hands, Xi has carefully scripted the scenario by which he will be elevated to the level of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.