US imperialism is bad; but have you seen the alternatives? This Monday (21) we had a taste of one of them: the explicit preparation of a Russian offensive against Ukraine.
Of course, nowadays, no country admits to having ambitions. There was no lack of reasons given in Monday night’s aggressive speech to officially recognize the independence of Ukrainian territories that are now partly in the hands of pro-Russian separatist groups.
Now the ground has been opened to militarily invade Ukraine. He even accused the Ukrainian government and Western nations of sponsoring Islamic terrorism.
But Putin went further. In his speech, Ukraine is nothing more than a creation of the Russian-Soviet state.
“As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine emerged, which even today can with good reason be called “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine”. He is its author and architect. (…) And now grateful descendants have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. Do you want decommunization? (…). We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.”
Putin made his threat explicit: with the end of communism, independent Ukraine lost its raison d’être (and, presumably, other former Soviet nations as well). In other words, judging by his words, not only the independence of certain conflicting regions but the subjugation of the whole of Ukraine would be a fully justified policy.
With the end of the Cold War, the world seemed destined to embrace democracy and human rights. Nationalism was a thing of the past. The dream of a united and harmonious Europe, in which the sovereignty of each country would matter less than prosperity and the union of values, seemed feasible. And after him, the world? Today we seem to distance ourselves more and more from this project.
And why is it bad for Russia to dominate more of the world, reducing the West’s sphere of influence? Because it is governed by a regime that is averse to the most cherished values of our societies: democracy, freedom of the press, human rights, free enterprise.
Its strategy is to flood the West with fake news and put liberal democracies on the brink of civil war while expanding their military dominance.
We now know that the Russian government has tried to directly interfere in the elections of other countries – including the US – through disinformation, hacking attacks and the use of thousands of fake profiles to promote greed and extremism. The goal was to further polarize the American debate, weakening the country.
Dialogue has proved useless. Putin’s own popularity depends on this kind of military adventure. If he sees weakness in the Western determination to defend Ukraine, he will go further and further. And he’s not the only threat. China is watching the reaction of Western powers to decide how to act in Taiwan and the South Sea.
Unfortunately, diplomacy is unable to resolve all conflicts. The days of undisputed American might are over. But that doesn’t mean we need to give up an order based on cooperation, voluntary exchanges and the defense of human rights.
Between the European Union, which despite the problems maintains true democracies and protects basic individual rights and freedom of the press, and an expansionist dictatorship based on the persecution of adversaries and massive disinformation, the choice is not difficult. But it will have to be guaranteed by force.