There have been dozens of wars in the nearly 80 years since the end of World War II. But if Russia invades Ukraine in the coming days, it will be different from most of them. It would be another sign that the world may be entering an alarming new era in which authoritarianism is on the rise.
In today’s newsletter, I will explain two main ways a war in Ukraine will be different. I will also keep you updated on the latest developments, with reports from my colleagues around the world.
1. Area Domination
A Russian invasion of Ukraine seems likely to involve one of the world’s largest militaries launching an unprovoked ground invasion of a neighboring country. The obvious goal would be to expand domination in the region, either through annexation or the establishment of a puppet government.
Few other conflicts since World War II fit this description. Some of the closest similarities are the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s, Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and Hungary in the 1950s – as well as Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. For its part, the US invaded Panama in the 1980s and used the CIA to overthrow the elected government in Guatemala in the 1950s. Of course, it also launched a number of distant wars, in Iraq, Vietnam and other places.
But the world’s most powerful nations rarely use force to expand boundaries or establish client states in their region. Instead, they often adhere to international treaties and rules established in the 1940s. The phrase “Pax Americana” describes this stability.
Relative peace has had great benefits. Living standards have risen, with people living longer, healthier and more comfortable lives on average than their ancestors. In recent decades, the greatest increases have come in lower-income countries. The decline in war played a central role: By the turn of the century, the death rate in armed conflicts had dropped to lowest level in recorded historyas noted by Joshua Goldstein, Steven Pinker and other scholars.
A Russian invasion of Ukraine would look like a kind of war that has barely existed in the last 80 years and that used to be commonplace. It will involve a powerful state that wants to expand its dominance in the region by taking over a neighboring country. A war like this – a war of voluntary aggression – would be a sign that Putin believes that Pax Americana is over and that the US, the European Union and their allies have become too weak. before painful consequences.
Like Anne Applebaum Written In the Atlantic, Putin and his inner circle are part of a new group of autocrats, along with the rulers of China, Iran and Venezuela: “people who don’t care about treaties and texts, those who don’t care about treaties and documents. who only respects hard power.”
This is why many people in Taiwan find the situation in Ukraine so chilling, as my colleagues Steven Lee Myers and Amy Qin have explained. “If the Western powers don’t react to Russia, they will push China’s thinking about taking action against Russia,” said Lai I-chung, a Taiwanese official with ties to the country’s leaders. with Taiwan. If the world is entering an era where nations again make decisions based on what their military might allows them to do, that will be a big change.
2. Democratic recession
Political scientists have been warning for several years that democracy is in decline around the world. Larry Diamond of Stanford University has described this trend as a “democratic recession”.
Freedom House, which tracks every country in the world, reports that global political freedom has been in decline every year since 2006. Last year, Freedom House concludes“Countries are experiencing more recessions than those that have improved by the largest margins on record since the negative trend began.”
A Russian takeover of Ukraine would contribute to this democratic recession in a new way: An autocracy would take over a democracy by force.
Ukraine is a predominantly democratic country of more than 40 million inhabitants, with a pro-Western president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who in 2019 won 73% of the vote in the final round of the election. That victory and recent polls both indicate that most Ukrainians would rather live in a country that resembles western European nations – and the US – than Russia.
However, Putin and his insides believe liberal democracies are in decline, a view shared by Xi Jinping and other top Chinese officials.
They know that the United States and Europe are currently struggling to raise living standards for most of their populations. Putin and Xi also know that many Western countries are polarized, plagued by cultural conflicts between urban areas and more rural areas. The major political parties are weak (as in the case of the old centre-left parties in Britain, France and elsewhere) or behave themselves in anti-democratic ways (as with the Republican Party in the US).
These issues have given Putin and his top aides the confidence to act boldly, believing that “the US-led order is in deep crisis,” said Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Written in The Economist this weekend.
Regarding the views of the Putin regime, Gabuev explains: “A new multipolar order is taking shape that reflects an unstoppable shift of power towards authoritarian regimes that uphold traditional values. A resilient, rising Russia is the vanguard behind the emergence of this new order, along with a rising China.
As I have tried to emphasize before, the situation in Ukraine is still very uncertain. Putin could still choose not to invade, given the possibility of a protracted war, a large number of Russian casualties, and an uncertain economic situation. An invasion would be a spectacular gamble with almost no modern equivalent – which is also why it would be a sign that the world might be changing.
Related: “The 21st century has turned into a dark century because the seeds of democracy have been forgotten and normal historical tyranny is rampant.” David Brooks wrote in a recent Times column.
And Farah Stockman suggested that the Russia-China friendship that Richard Nixon feared had arrived.
A piece of American culinary history
The Ebony test kitchen is singular, with its orange and green swirls and futuristic design. Built in the early 1970s, the kitchen cemented Ebony magazine’s place in American food culture.
Ebony, a leading Black American magazine since the 1940s, helped change the public’s perception of Black food. Freda DeKnight, Ebony’s first culinary editor, travels the United States learning different culinary traditions from home chefs and sharing her findings in a monthly column. International recipes like rose petal pudding and mulligawny soup live alongside traditional dishes like Ebony’s chicken stew and dumplings. Readers can submit favorite home recipes to be checked by experts, and the magazine showcases the winning recipes.
“A lot of people have come to Ebony for recipes that are familiar or have become part of our culture,” said Charlotte Lyons, a former food editor at Ebony. “We’re going to bring all of that to life.” The restored kitchen is the focus of a new exhibition opening Wednesday at the Africa Center in Harlem. – Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook?
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/briefing/ukraine-russia-war-pax-americana.html Why Ukraine is different – The New York Times