The Ukraine War and the Fate of Western Liberalism
The Ukraine War and the Fate of Western Liberalism
Since the emergence of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and China’s rise under Xi’s leadership, skepticism shadowed the liberal system and its validity as a global model. These doubts were also heard from within Western liberal circles, with the appearance of the populist movement and the extremist right, along with calls for religious and ethnic nationalism.
The Syrian emigration crisis played a role in the European arena. Consequently, the left and the center right had to pursue populist policies that are hostile to liberal principles. Liberal democracy seemed fragile. Many countries, which had long aspired to be in the Liberal Club, have gradually began to move towards the Chinese and Russian model.
Following the defeat of Donald Trump, President Joe Biden has curbed this tendency, declaring that liberal democracy was capable of stability and victory. He depicted the conflict with China and Russia as between authoritarian regimes and democracy. Hence, liberalism got a case, and shifted from the defense side to the attack.
The liberal system, unlike the authoritarian regime, does not impose on people a certain way of life. On the contrary, it gives the freedom to the members of the society to live as they want to. While the system aspires to maintain the people’s safety and ensure security in society, authoritarian regimes are based on racial, ethnic or religious considerations.
Thus, we see how China deals with the Uyghur minority, for example, and what happens in Myanmar with the Muslim minority. The authoritarian regimes tend to impose historical and cultural identity on society, while liberal systems try to build a universal identity, based on political principles such as openness, moderation and tolerance.
This authoritarian orientation was reflected in Putin’s justification for the invasion, saying there was nothing called Ukraine… that the Ukrainian people were historically part of Russia and that he will save them from Nazism and the subversion of the West.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, agreed with Putin, claiming that the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian people should be united as one spiritual people, and that invading Ukraine was part of the metaphysical (religious) conflict against the morally torn Western civilization, which worships materialism and economic globalization and promotes homosexuality.
Raising nationalist, ethnic and religious slogans in the face of liberalism, contributed to a breach of European Liberal House. In Hungary, right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban won with an overwhelming majority, extremist President Alexander Vucic achieved victory in Serbia, and in France, right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen received 24 percent of votes to compete in the second round with Emmanuel Macron.
Alike Putin, all of them rely on the same foundations, including ethnicity, nationalism and culture mixed with religion.
Thus, Marine Le Pen saw in Putin a possible ally for France after the end of the war in Ukraine. Orban, for his part, said he would not allow arms to pass through his country to Ukraine.
This confirms that the liberalism does not face a challenge only from China or Russia, but from within its societies.
The consequences of authoritarian regimes on the global level include the lack of trust in the supreme power of international law and the legalization of the de facto policy that justifies invasions and the discrimination and exclusion of minorities.
The prevalence of this concept will inevitably lead to liberal corrosion, and to a declining trust in globalization, as well as conflict of cultures at the internal and global levels. It will lead to a significant change in the existing global order – a change that could portend the return to the conflict of nations through wars, as was the case, in the nineteenth century.
This scenario could also lead to the fall of the US sovereignty and the American liberal foundations, with China’s dominance as a national and anti-liberal model. Thus, the United States is deploying all efforts to prevent this path and would not allow Putin to achieve full victory in Ukraine, nor China to expand its influence in East and South Asia.
In this context, US officials are focusing on the use of harsh descriptions, pointing to the brutality of Vladmir Putin and accusing him of war crimes. They are calling on China to declare its commitment to the sanctity of international law and human rights, or else publicly announce its support for Putin.
These descriptions are accompanied by images broadcast by the liberal media about developments in Ukraine. They have created a new reality that pushed Europe to join the ranks of the US. France, for example, sent a team to investigate alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Europe, which had long believed in action through trade, began to arm, such as Germany, whose liberal system is at risk.
These moves, accompanied by popular support in Europe, will undoubtedly contribute to curbing populism within the European system.
This liberal tide will not be thwarted by the success of Orban. In fact, the latter’s victory was shadowed with doubts… Certainly, Orban will be trapped by the European Union and will not be able to convince his people to head east.
There’s no doubt that the war of Ukraine, despite its tragedies, has put back the liberal system at the forefront, raising a new slogan, democracies against suppressive countries.
If Russia fails to achieve its goals, such confrontation will restore the US global role, and neither China, nor any other country, will be able to question the American leadership.