What we have at stake in Ukraine

By | May 26, 2022

Paul Starr writes:

What stake do we have in the Russia-Ukraine War? I would put it this way: This is a war to prevent the realities of the 20th century from becoming our future in the 21st century. Russia today is an Orwellian nightmare, a dictatorship directly descended from the Soviet KGB that takes brutal retribution against its critics and hardly bothers to conceal it, the better to instill fear in others. It commits war crimes with the same moral indifference and the same strategic purpose. It is also an economically backward regime that has moved from communism to kleptocracy, and from left to right, without changing its basic character.

The Ukrainians have every reason to fear being dragged back under Moscow’s deadening control: Putin himself has said Ukraine has no right to exist, and he has put Moldova, the Baltic countries, and other former Soviet states on notice. No wonder the Swedes and Finns, who long preferred official neutrality, now want to join NATO. We too now have to weigh the prospect of being dragged back into a past when our friends feared for their freedom and the specter of nuclear annihilation made us all fear for our lives.

In Russia today, no lie is too fantastic to be fed to the public. In a perfect example of Orwellian Newspeak, the “special military operation” in Ukraine is supposedly aimed at “de-Nazifying” the only country other than Israel with a Jewish head of government. (“So what if Zelensky is Jewish,” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said recently in response to a question. “I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood.”) In its utter contempt for the truth, this kind of institutionalized lying has its parallel in the practiced deceit of Putin’s greatest American admirer, Donald Trump, and the debasement of Republican leaders and right-wing media that parrot Trump’s lies or stand silent, refusing to contradict them.

Resisting the extension of this kind of regime is what the struggle in Ukraine and the struggle at home are both about. In the world today, we are back to basics, the basics of liberal democracy. [Continue reading…]

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