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Evil thrives – unless we fight it

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One of the silver linings to the very large dark cloud of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the clarity it provides. It’s basically a contest between the good guys and the bad guys.

Many people who think they are realists in foreign policy roll their eyes at the talk of “good guys” versus “bad guys.” The world is made up of nation states with interests and these states act rationally according to their interests. Good and bad have nothing to do with it.

I have never believed in this argument, either in analytical or moral terms.

Yes, nations have interests, but the way they define their interests is not always strictly rational. History is replete with examples of nations devoting vast resources to causes that are extra-rational. “The error of the ‘realists’ is not their interest in the struggle for power, but their willful neglect of everything else, especially the unscientific, contingent, and very human feelings and beliefs which most powerfully move people. people,” said the late Great Donald. Kagan wrote in “Honor Among Nations: Intangible Interests and Foreign Policy.”

To claim that, for example, North Korea’s foreign and domestic policy is merely an expression of its rational self-interest is to declare that you know nothing about North Korea – or the decisions its leaders have chosen to take to transform this society into a xenophobic society. gulag.

Realists tend to confuse the interests of the rulers with the interests of the ruled. It’s hard to find a sane analyst who argues that Putin invaded Ukraine solely in the name of Russia’s rational self-interest rather than his own notions of glory and historic retribution, and he’s even more hard to find anyone who thinks the invasion is objectively in the interests of the Russian people.

Again, while it would have been in everyone’s interest – however you define it – that Putin did not commit this monstrous crime, his choice makes it easy to call him and his enablers the bad guys. . Deliberately targeting civilians, sanctioning mass executions and rapes, not to mention the massive and intentional obliteration of cities, is objectively wrong. The Russian state tacitly admits this when it refuses to tell its own people what it is doing.

A man walks near buildings damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 22, 2022.
A man walks past destroyed buildings in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on April 22, 2022.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko

Indeed, the reach of Russia’s lies is so great that the liars are beginning to say the quieter part out loud: that the truth and telling the truth is an impermissible threat to the Russian regime.

Margarita Simonyan, the director of RT (formerly Russia Today), which once claimed to be a legitimate news organization, recently said: “No great nation can exist without control over information” and that Russia should follow the Soviet model. or contemporary Chinese, which would deprive people of freedom in “the political life of their country, in the informational life of the country”. With media voices like Simonyan in the driver’s seat, it’s no wonder Putin is doing well in Russia’s polls.

There is equal clarity for the United States. I think the realistic case for doing everything possible to ensure a Russian defeat is obvious. It is Russian policy to undermine our interests and the interests of our allies around the world.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian broadcaster RT and media group Rossiya Segodnya, attends a session of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 3, 2021.
Margarita Simonyan is the head of RT and recently said, “No great nation can exist without control over information.”
REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File

But there is a deeper moral realism involved. In the 1990s, we pushed Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees. In 2005, a bipartisan effort led by the senses. Dick Lugar and Barack Obama drove Ukraine to destroy large quantities of its conventional weapons, assuming those security guarantees would be honored. In other words, we told them we would protect them.

Putin said those guarantees – to which Russia subscribed – were null and void because the Ukrainian Euromaidan protests in 2013 ushered in a new Ukrainian state. It doesn’t matter whether you buy this waste; Putin’s betrayal of his commitments does not release us from ours. And it is in our interest to be seen as a nation that honors its commitments, both moral and legal.

None of this is to say we should send our own troops to Ukraine – not that we wouldn’t be morally justified. Starting a direct war between two nuclear superpowers is a bad idea. Besides, Ukraine is not asking for that. He’s asking for the modern equivalent of the arsenal of democracy, and we should give it to him, fast. Because Putin is now doubling down on his crimes in Eastern Ukraine just to save face. It is not in our interest that he succeed. And, as a villain, he deserves to lose.

Twitter: @JonasDispatch

New York Post



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