My last two posts, here and here, have discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the large threat it creates for world peace. Ukraine wants to be free and independent and Russia wants to keep it as a buffer against encroachment from the West. Who will prevail?
According to Richard Fontaine, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “Before the invasion, Western countries widely viewed Russia as a resentful, revisionist power, led by a president who was unhappy with his country’s global position but pragmatic and opportunistic. Moscow’s unprovoked war of aggression changed this perception overnight. American and European leaders now see Russia as a clear and present danger, not just to Ukraine but potentially to other neighbors and even to NATO territory.”
“Neutrality is waning. Non-NATO member Finland and Neutral Sweden have now both firmly aligned with the West against Russia.” Putin’s war “could ultimately leave NATO larger, more unified, better armed, and with military deployment placed closer to Russia. . . . Geopolitical reverberations extend to other regions as well. Japan has joined the sweeping sanctions on Russia.” It wants to make sure that China’s desire to control Taiwan is not increased by what is happening in Ukraine.
“World order – those institutions and rules that govern, if not always effectively, the conduct of nations – is very often taken for granted.” It is easy to dismiss this as “the obsolete manifestations of a Cold War mindset, or the hubris of U.S. leadership. . . . Easy, that is until the foundations of international order shake violently as they have with the invasion of Ukraine. The alternative to an ordered world . . . is the law of the jungle where big countries can take territory, impose their rule, and spread chaos at will. That is Mr. Putin’s world.”
“There is nothing inevitable about the world envisioned by Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi – where the strong do what they want and the weak suffer what they must. . . . Today’s two revisionist powers are formidable but they pale in comparison to the West’s combined might.”
“The world that Mr. Putin launched this war to create is very different from the world that is emerging. By invading Ukraine, he has weakened Russia, rather than strengthened it. He has achieved not the absorption of Ukraine into Russia but the enduring enmity of its peoples. He has initiated not a successful challenge to the West but rather a war that has spurred its members to take action.”
Conclusion. Mr. Putin’s string of tactical successes (Georgia, Syria, Crimea) has almost surely come to an end. The West is responding to the invasion of Ukraine, with both military aid for the Ukrainians and severe sanctions on Russia. Putin will have to either back down or suffer a major defeat. The free world is responding deliberately and appropriately to this major threat to world order.