War has returned to the European continent. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is more than a war on one nation. It is a war on the West and everything the West represents — its democracy, rule of law, liberty and the rules-based international world order it has established, largely as a result of America’s military power and the combined economic might of the United States, the European Union and various like-minded nations.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is a Wake-Up Call for Germany
Superficially, one might look at the start date of this war as February 24, when addressed the Munich Security Conference, lambasting the US and its allies for overstepping boundaries, unsettling global order and threatening Russia itself. He was especially sharp in his criticism of the US invasion of Iraq and NATO expansion to include the countries of the former Soviet bloc.forces invaded . In fact, Putin declared his war on the West 15 years ago, when he
Putin’s Long-Declared War Against the West
One year later, in the summer of 2008, Putin launched his first military campaign. invaded Georgia, another aspiring democracy, following its (and ’s) application to NATO. He had drawn his line and made clear he was prepared to resist. In 2014, following the ouster of the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovych during the Maidan Revolution (aka Euromaidan and Revolution of Dignity), forces — disguised by the absence of uniform — invaded and captured the Crimea region in southern , subsequently annexing it.forces
Shortly afterward, Putin threw his support behindseparatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donbas in eastern , on the border with . That conflict continued to fester through last week’s invasion.
As he rationalized in Munich, NATO was advancing east, encircling and threatening. In fact, it was the nations of Eastern and the Caucasus moving West, adopting the Western model of democracy and free economy, and electing to formally associate with them. Their rationale has been made ever clearer now: They feared aggression and sought the security of NATO and the prosperity of the EU. and Putin’s model of one-man rule, fear and intimidation, repression and stymied economic opportunity held no attraction, and even less under some misguided, fever-dream version of a resurrected empire.
It may have been easy to compartmentalize Putin’s antagonism as directed solely at former eastern bloc states on China — of the spheres of influence of great powers. He also calculated that , after its failure to defend Crimea or defeat the -backed separatists in Donbas, would fold in the face of superior military might.periphery. But and Georgia have always been merely the staging grounds of Putin’s assault on the West. His calculation was that a seemingly enfeebled US, weakened abroad and divided at home, and a fractious and divisive NATO would not respond. They would acquiesce to his vision of a neo- empire and the recently resurgent notion — also supported by
Putin doubtlessly also realized that declining over the last decades and is aging. status in the global power alignment is fading, and Putin knows it. Now was the time to strike.is a declining power. The base for its economy, oil and natural gas, while still much in demand, is facing a declining shelf life as advanced countries turn rapidly to renewable energy technologies. Enormously rich in natural resources and even richer in human ingenuity, it is a one-dimensional economy, making it dependent on the vagaries of commodity markets to keep its budget in balance. Its population has been
Putin’s whining aside, the invasion of dismissed its independence in a speech on February 21, a nakedly transparent declaration of expansionism. Holding up NATO as the aggressive villain and as an inherent and natural part of greater was a red herring that earned no perch outside his most ardent apologists.was never about the West’s threat to . Democracies go to war only when threatened. In fact, Putin was crystal clear in his purpose when he belittled and
Calculating Putin Miscalculates
The reputedly calculating Putin underestimated his immediate enemy, the, and his ultimate enemy, the West. Nor did he grasp the dimensions of the new kind of war that would result when great powers enter the fray in an overwhelmingly interdependent world. His war has all the signs not only of a hot war but also the Cold War, an economic war, an exponentially more expansive information war than he could have imagined, and a cyberwar.
All will claim causalities across the map, most especially in his own country and. Importantly, vaunted propaganda engine may prove no match for the millions of with cell phones and the hundreds of millions cell phone users around the world supporting them.
But the economic disruption of the unprecedented sanctions imposed by the rest of the world’s economic powers, save China, suggests that people everywhere will suffer to some degree. Financial flows are massively displaced, most seriously for a massive falls in financial markets and the ruble, the clearest signs of an economy in freefall as investors and consumers rush to cash out and then run for the exits.that has been effectively cut out of global financial markets. Note the
Even the massive $630 billion in reserves Putin had thought he was so clever in amassing to blunt the anticipated sanctions have become a dead asset. No one will take his dollars, euros, yen or Swiss francs, not even his gold; they’re all toxic now.
Oil and grain markets have been colossally disrupted. Import-dependent nations, both developed as well as poor, will pay much higher prices, leading to increased inflation and hardship. We should also expect other secondary effects from the war and sanctions.
has become the proving ground for democracy. Can the immense financial and economic powers amassed by the world’s democracies counter the brute force military power of one country? Nine of the 10 largest economies in the world are democracies, China the lone exception; ranks 12th.
Democracies run the world’s financial systems from SWIFT to the global financial institutions that fall under the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The US dollar dominates global financial transactions and national reserves. Money has often determined wars’ winners in the past, but never one on the scale of this one, especially when the antagonists wield nuclear weapons.
It may all fall to the courage and resilience of the valiant. The longer they can hold out against onslaught, already fraught with unanticipated planning, logistical and tactical problems and questionable troop morale, the more unbearable the economic costs will become for .
possesses some of the world’s largest areas of super-rich and fertile black earth. The world is hoping it may also prove to be the perfect soil for democracy to flourish.
*[An earlier version of this article stated that for “the first time since 1945,” war had returned to Europe. Updated March 2, 2022, at 15:00 GMT.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.
In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.
We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.
Support Fair Observer
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.
Will you support FO’s journalism?
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.