Monday, February 28, 2022

Putin Accidentally Revitalized the West's Liberal Order

It's Kori Schake, at the Atlantic, "The Russian president thought he sensed an opportunity to take advantage of a disunited West. He has been proved wrong":

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a chorus of despair—beyond the cost in Ukrainian lives, the international order that the U.S. and its allies built after World War II is, we are told, crumbling. The writer Paul Kingsnorth has declared that the liberal order is already dead. The Indian journalist Rahul Shivshankar has argued that “in the ruins across Ukraine you will find the remains of Western arrogance.” Even the brilliant historian Margaret MacMillan has written that “the world will never be the same. We have moved already into a new and unstable era.”

The reverse is true. Vladimir Putin has attempted to crush Ukraine’s independence and “Westernness” while also demonstrating NATO’s fecklessness and free countries’ unwillingness to shoulder economic burdens in defense of our values. He has achieved the opposite of each. Endeavoring to destroy the liberal international order, he has been the architect of its revitalization.

Germany has long soft-pedaled policies targeting Russia, but its chancellor, Olaf Scholz, made a moving and extraordinary change, committing an additional $100 billion to defense spending immediately, shipping weapons to Ukraine, and ending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was constructed to bring gas to Germany from Russia. Hungary, thought to be the weakest link in the Western chain, has supported without question moves by the European Union and NATO to punish Moscow. Turkey, arguably the most Russia-friendly NATO country, having bought missile defense systems from Moscow, has invoked its responsibilities in the 1936 Montreux Convention and closed the Bosporus strait to Russian warships. NATO deployed its rapid-reaction force for the first time, and allies are rushing to send troops to reinforce frontline states. A cascade of places have closed their airspace to Russian craft. The United States has orchestrated action and gracefully let others have the stage, strengthening allies and institutions both.

We are a long way from the ultimate outcome of Russia’s invasion, but even if Ukrainian military forces cannot prevail or President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are killed or captured, it’s difficult to see how Putin’s broader gamble succeeds. If Zelensky falls, another leader will step forward. Even Russian-speaking Ukrainians have become anti-Russian. The scene depicted in Picasso’s Guernica, one of wanton and barbaric violence, is the best Putin can hope for: Conquering Ukraine will require unspeakable brutality, and even if Moscow succeeds on this count, foreign legions are flowing to Ukraine to assist an insurgency in bleeding Russia’s occupation. If Ukraine fends off Russia’s assault, it will be welcomed into NATO and the EU.

The Ukrainian government that so recently seemed mired in corruption and division has been outstanding: President Zelensky has refused to flee and inspired resistance; outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian military forces seem to have held their own. They understand that they’re in a battle of ideas, establishing, for example, a hotline for Russian prisoners of war to call their families.

Civil activism is the lifeblood of free societies, and Ukrainians have been excelling, including the sunflower lady, who cursed Russian soldiers; civilians lining up to collect arms and make Molotov cocktails, or change out street signs to confuse the invaders; and breweries retooling to produce weaponry.

Ukraine’s tenacity and creativity have ignited civil-society energy, corporate strength, and humanitarian assistance. The hacker group Anonymous has declared war on Russia, disrupting state TV and making public the defense ministry’s personnel rosters. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has promised to help keep Ukraine online. The chipmakers Intel and AMD have stopped sending supplies to Russia; BP is divesting from its stake in the Russian energy giant Rosneft; FedEx and UPS have suspended service to Russia. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is cutting all its investments in Russia. YouTube and Meta have demonetized Russian state media. (Even Pornhub is denying Russians access.) Belarusian hackers disrupted their country’s rail network to prevent their government from sending troops to support the Russian war. Polish citizens collected 100 tons of food for Ukraine in two days. Bars are pouring out Russian vodka. Iconic architecture in cities all over the free world is lit up with the colors of the Ukrainian flag to show solidarity. Sports teams are refusing to play Russia in international tournaments. The London Philharmonic opened its Saturday concert by playing the Ukrainian national anthem, and the Simpsons modeled Ukrainian flags. This is what free societies converging on an idea looks like. And the idea is this: Resist Putin’s evil...

Still more.