Terry H, Schwadron
April 12, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists that Russia is targeting all of Europe with its aggression, and war won’t stop at the borders of his country.
Of course, he argues that, in part, to assure that other Western countries will pour more weapons and aid into Ukraine as the bulwark of a defense of democracies against an autocratic future.
The “entire European project is a target for Russia,” Zelenskyy said in a weekend speech, exhorting yet more weaponry before an expected onslaught in re-grouped Russian military effort in Ukraine’s eastern region.
He and other Western leaders, including Joe Biden, pitch the defense of Ukraine in moral terms that will reset the world order.
It’s too early yet to determine what will happen to any negotiated power-sharing in Ukraine, never mind the rest of the globe. But that’s not stopping the talking heads from posturing about a new global alignment.
After all, who will become the world’s most important influences for war and peace are always seen as more critical than how to take in and accustom three million war refugees to new homes or how to rebuild razed Ukrainian cities or even how to set terms for ceasefire in a struggle marked by Russian targeting of civilians, hospitals and evacuation train centers.
Lots of Change at Once
If Vladimir Putin is as crafty as he is mean-spirited in this war, he is looking ahead to a world power arrangement that recognizes some kind of Russian-dominated domain that is linked by arrangement with a dominant China in Asia and a disorganized and increasingly fragile Western alliance porting the Atlantic.
And, aware that the era of American dominance in the world continues to fade, we seem to be focused on the same set of realities, with differing results.
Beyond Ukraine and the literal war in Europe, we saw plenty of evidence for deteriorating stability this week.
Putin is not only targeting Ukrainians with whom he disagrees, but Russian dissenters or even those who might not back this invasion of Ukraine as well.
From France, where the political, anti-immigrant and basically pro-Russian Right, was threatening Emmanuel Macron’s presidency to nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the legislature was demanding ouster of the sitting leader, we could see governments sitting on unwelcome instability. The re-election of Victor Orban as leader of Hungary and the autocracy for which he stands was a shining rejection of democratic thinking.
In China, the return of covid proved a platform for draconian authoritarian policies of the central government to simple halt all activity in Shanghai, even as the Chinese leadership is making clear that Russian aggression to halt democracy is not a serious problem to them.
The Israeli government is hanging by a thread once again, held together only by defense against Palestinian violence this week. Iran and North Korea are once again braying against Western sanctions and moving ahead with nuclear weapons development. India is remaining distinctly disdainful of Western calls to shun Russian energy sources.
And the United Nations is proving itself all but irrelevant to peacekeeping when it is needed.
In this country, of course, being ant-Biden is more than campaigning for another candidate.
Rather, Let’s Go Brandon is a constant refrain of divisiveness so deep, so cultural, that there is plenty of heat and light for what we still call conspiracy theories from allegations of support for pedophilia to the planned demise of human biology to dominate Republican politics.
America First is a demeaning of globalism for American isolationism even as the same voices insist on American dominance in all things business, climate, immigration and military. Our own divisions about Donald Trump-style destruction of norms necessarily now includes condoning the effort to overturn our own government in the Jan. 6 insurrection and the adorative triumphant return of an ethics-challenged former president to the commanding spotlight.
The new world order, seen through these eyes, is a set of autocracies that argue for individual rights before barring them. The new American order is one that protects a white, Christian America despite changing demographics and resists any need to consider civil rights for those not in the club.
In a larger world, America First means other autocracies should stand back from us, worry about their own problems, and just send us their trade on our terms, ask us for permission to run their armies, and take care of their own would-be refugees. Don’t bother us with your problems, adherents say simplistically. The point is to insist that America always wins, and we will redo our democracy to make it so.
The new world order in the Joe Biden outlook is one that values democracy and stresses whatever international accord can win agreement with alliances strong enough to enforce the rules of the road.
This Biden world order is looking a bit more like the board game Risk, with spheres of influence and arcane alliances to keep the peace.
Whatever we do, other players are changing the world order. If we can stop talking about celebrity slaps and gas prices for a moment, perhaps we could focus on our wider goals in the world.