The US is right to be wary of what Vladimir Putin might be planning next, writes Leon Aron in the Los Angeles Times. He sees troubling signs that a "personality-driven dictatorship" is becoming the new normal in Russia, as evidenced by the chants and ovations Putin received when he spoke about the annexation of Crimea. It "suggested a new cult of personality that is already enormous and might one day rival even that of Josef Stalin," writes Aron. He notes one crucial difference, however: nuclear weapons. "Never before has a dictator with such a cult of personality had such access to these kinds of weapons."
The US and the West should beef up their missile-defense systems and continue to penalize Moscow through sanctions, "but the most important thing of all right now is awareness," Aron writes. At the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan assesses that same Putin speech and also sees reason to worry. "It suggests a new era, one that doesn't have a name yet," she writes. "But the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union were one thing, and this is something else—something rougher, darker, and more aggressive." Click for her full column, or for Aron's full column. (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)