Why Much of the World Sees US Power in Ukraine with Doubt and Dread
This Week on Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon
Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowadays.
We are encouraged to believe, we Americans, that if anything good for the world comes out of the war in Ukraine, it will be that “the US is back,” not shooting but supporting, maybe midwifing a new birth of freedom. The indispensable nation again. What does it tell you that most of the world doesn’t see it that way? We like to say that the cause going forward is democracy against strongman politics, but India, the biggest democracy in the world, is also the world’s biggest buyer of Russian weapons, and has refused to condemn the Putin invasion of Ukraine. Neither has Israel, among the liveliest of democracies. Two thirds of the human race, some five billion people, live in countries that want no part of the sanctions against Russia: the people of Africa, Southeast Asia, as well as Latin America and China.
Most Americans have no trouble sorting the good guys from the bad in the war for Ukraine. We take comfort that US power stands with the victims of Russia’s invasion—that we’re defending universal values of freedom and democracy. The invasion was a crime, and Russia should be punished for it, as simple as that—all the better if our right role in Ukraine puts our own Iraq and Afghan invasions behind us. The puzzle this radio hour is why much of the world sees US power in Ukraine with doubts and some dread: as an uncertain step in the gloom of uncharted territory.
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