Most of the World Doesn’t Care About Ukraine
Many in the Global South see the war very differently than we in the West.
WaPo global affairs correspondent-at-large Liz Sly offers a take I’ve not seen before in “A global divide on the Ukraine war is deepening.” She begins with an anecdote:
Clement Manyathela, who hosts a popular and influential talk show on South Africa’s Radio 702, remembers the outrage he felt when Russian troops first surged into Ukraine. He had believed Russia’s insistence that it wasn’t planning to attack and felt cheated when war broke out.
“We were lied to,” he said.
But as the fighting continued, he, and many of those who call in to his show, began to ask questions: Why had President Vladimir Putin deemed it necessary to invade? Was NATO fueling the fire by sending so many weapons to Ukraine? How could the United States expect others around the world to support its policies when it had also invaded countries?
“When America went into Iraq, when America went into Libya, they had their own justifications that we didn’t believe, and now they’re trying to turn the world against Russia. This is unacceptable, too,” Manyathela said. “I still don’t see any justification for invading a country, but we cannot be dictated to about the Russian moves on Ukraine. I honestly feel the U.S. was trying to bully us.”
That’s a bizarre view of world events.
While I opposed the Libya operation, it was conducted under the auspices of the UN Security Council, meaning there was consensus between the United States, the UK, France, Russia, and China that it was warranted. The US provided the bulk of the military assets for the mission but it was decidedly not an American operation.
Certainly, the Iraq War rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and is rightly pointed to whenever the United States tut-tuts about international law and the liberal world order. Still, it was never a war of conquest. While invading to topple Saddam’s regime was illegal, we quickly handed sovereignty back tot he Iraqi people and spent the better part of a decade unsuccessfully trying to make constitutional democracy work there. It’s just not of a piece with Putin’s heinous conduct in Ukraine.
But, hey, this is just one radio host of whom I’d never previously heard.
In the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a reinvigorated Western alliance has rallied against Russia, forging what President Biden has trumpeted as a “global coalition.” Yet a closer look beyond the West suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war.
The conflict has exposed a deep global divide, and the limits of U.S. influence over a rapidly shifting world order. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed, and not just among Russian allies that could be expected to back Moscow, such as China and Iran.
India announced last week that its trade with Russia has grown by 400 percent since the invasion. In just the past six weeks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been welcomed in nine countries in Africa and the Middle East — including South Africa, whose foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, hailed their meeting as “wonderful” and called South Africa and Russia “friends.”
On Friday, a year after the invasion began, the South African navy will be engaged in military exercises with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean, sending a powerful signal of solidarity at a moment the United States had hoped would provide an opportunity for reinvigorated worldwide condemnations of Russia.
So, essentially the entire OECD is united against Putin but a handful of autocracies are happy to deal with him? India has always prided itself on non-alignment but is understandably reflexively anti-Western. And, alas, Modi has taken the country backwards in arguably the worst case of democratic backsliding on the planet.
Conversations with people in South Africa, Kenya and India suggest a deeply ambivalent view of the conflict, informed less by the question of whether Russia was wrong to invade than by current and historical grievances against the West — over colonialism, perceptions of arrogance, and the West’s failure to devote as many resources to solving conflicts and human rights abuses in other parts of the world, such as the Palestinian territories, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Western countries “are hypocritical,” said Bhaskar Dutta, a clerk in Kolkata, India. “These people colonized the entire world. What Russia has done cannot be condoned, but at the same time, you cannot blame them wholly.”
Again, I get that the colonial legacy is still fresh on the minds of many in countries that gained their independence in the postwar period, many not until the 1960s. At the same time, 2022 simply isn’t 1492, or even 1858. A whole host of international norms and laws have been established in the intervening years. The League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, have the sanctity of national borders and condemnation of territorial acquisition by force as a cornerstone.
U.S. officials point out that 141 of 193 countries at the United Nations voted to condemn Russia after the invasion and that 143 voted in October to censure the Kremlin’s announced annexation of parts of Ukraine. But only 33 countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, and a similar number are sending lethal aid to Ukraine. An Economist Intelligence Unit survey last year estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population lives in countries that have refrained from condemning Russia.
A quarter of the world’s population live in China and India. It’s just not a useful metric.
Still, while the United States, Canada, the European Union, Japan, and Australia are in the sanctioning club, Sly notes that it’s not quite as simple as democracy vs autocracy:
This is not a battle between freedom and dictatorship, as Biden often suggests, said William Gumede, who founded and heads the Johannesburg-based Democracy Works Foundation, which promotes democracy in Africa. He pointed to the refusal of South Africa, India and Brazil to join Biden’s global coalition.
That reluctance, he said, is the outgrowth of more than a decade of building resentment against the United States and its allies, which have increasingly lost interest in addressing the problems of the Global South, he said. The coronavirus pandemic, when Western countries locked down and locked out other countries, and President Donald Trump’s explicit disdain for Africa, further fueled the resentment.
As the West pulled back, both Russia and China stepped into the vacuum, aggressively courting developing nations and capitalizing on the disillusionment with the United States and Europe by presenting an alternative to perceived Western hegemony. The Middle East and Africa are key battlegrounds in this struggle for hearts and minds, as are Asia and, to a lesser extent, Latin America, whose fortunes are more closely bound by geography to the United States.
The resentment of the haves by the have-nots is natural, I suppose, although the Global North has certainly poured tons of money into the Global South for poverty relief and medical help. The US alone has pledged over 1 billion doses of COVID vaccines, although it’s only delivered two-thirds that to date. And the EU has absorbed massive numbers of migrants fleeing wars in the Middle East. That’s certainly more than Russia has done.
The Middle East is one region where Russia has succeeded in winning friends and influence, said Faysal, a retired Egyptian consultant on organized crime who asked that his full name not be used because of the sensitivity of discussing political issues in Egypt.
“Of course I support Putin,” he said in an interview in Cairo. “A long time ago, we lost faith in the West. All the Arabs on this side of the world support Putin, and we are happy to hear he is gaining lands in Ukraine.”
“There’s been a failure of the West in the past 15 years to see the anger building up around the world, and Russia has absolutely exploited this,” Gumede said. “Russia has been able to portray Ukraine as a war with NATO. It’s the West versus the rest.”
Despite Western efforts to attribute global inflation and a food crisis to the Russian invasion, most countries around the world blame the West for the imposition of sanctions, said Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary.
They do not subscribe to the narrative that countering Russia is a moral imperative if the principles of democracy and territorial integrity and the rules-based world order are to be upheld, Sibal said.
“That’s not an argument that serious people buy,” he said, citing the NATO bombing of Serbia, U.S. support for dictatorships during the Cold War, and the Iraq War as examples of what he sees as the United States violating those same principles.
Again, to some degree that’s fair. The Serbia case is an odd one to cite as it, like Libya, was in support of UN Security Council Resolutions to protect human rights. But, yes, the United States happily backed dictators who were on our side of the Cold War and turned a blind eye to human rights abuses. (We’ve already discussed Iraq.)
Here we finally get to the core of it:
“The rest of the world genuinely sees this as a European war. They do not see a global conflict or the way it is presented by the West,” he said. “Yes, it has international repercussions such as inflation. But those repercussions are because of the sanctions.”
The bottom line is that the West sees war in the West and violations of international norms in the West differently. We still by and large see war in the developing world as a rather normal thing whereas the rules of the liberal order are held most dear at home. Which makes sense, both in terms of natural kin-country sentiments but because the West is where the rules originated in the first place.
Relatedly, we tend to view state sovereignty in the West as more sacrosanct than elsewhere. Not shockingly, this leads to charges of hypocrisy.
In refusing to risk its relationship with Russia, India is taking a hardheaded view of its own interests, he said, including its dependence on Russia for military supplies and the opportunity to hold inflation at bay by buying discounted Russian oil. There are tens of thousands of Chinese troops massed on India’s border with China, its geopolitical rival, and India can’t afford to alienate Russia or risk any interruption of its weapons supplies, he said.
The United States needs India to counterbalance China and, after initial attempts to pressure New Delhi to fall into line with its policies, now appears to have accepted India’s position, Sibal said. The United States decided not to impose sanctions on India for a missile deal it concluded with Russia last year and instead has been pursuing expanded ties, including its own defense deals.
As much as I dislike Modi’s domestic policies, it’s hard to fault him for this calculation.
South Africa’s decision to join military exercises with Russia and China has been met with less understanding. U.S. and Western diplomats have expressed alarm at both the timing and the nature of the drills, saying they suggest that South Africa is veering beyond its professed neutrality toward siding with Russia.
South African officials have noted that the country also participated in exercises with the U.S. military last year. But those drills were focused on humanitarian and disaster responses, said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. The Russia-China exercises, which began Friday, involve offensive naval capabilities and could conceivably enhance Russia’s naval combat capacity. The Russian force includes one of Moscow’s premier warships, the Admiral Gorshkov, which Russia has said is equipped with its newly developed hypersonic Zircon missile.
The exercises are giving Russia an important public relations boost as the West’s attention is focused on the anniversary of the war, said Kobus Marais, spokesman for South Africa’s Democratic Alliance opposition party. He said South Africa had become “Russia’s useful idiot” and could become complicit in war crimes if the Admiral Gorshkov is later deployed to fire missiles into Ukraine.
The exercise follows the mysterious docking at a South African port in December of a Russian ship, the Lady R, which is under U.S. sanctions because it is known to have engaged in weapons deliveries. The cargo ship was denied permission to dock at Cape Town, its original destination, and instead sailed a few miles away to a smaller port at Simon’s Town, where it was observed unloading and then reloading containers that had apparently originated at a South African special forces ammunition-storage site, according to Marais.
The U.S. government sent a formal warning to the South African government that any entity that interacted with the vessel would risk secondary sanctions, but received no reply, the U.S. official said. The South African Defense Ministry has said it is investigating the matter.
“Their ostensible position of neutrality is, to put it charitably, harder and harder to believe,” the U.S. official said. The United States has invested heavily in post-apartheid South Africa and is South Africa’s biggest foreign investor and biggest export market, and it makes little sense for it to jeopardize its relationship with Washington, the official said.
But South Africa has its own reasons for remaining loyal to Russia despite the risks, South Africans say. The ruling African National Congress party was backed by the Soviet Union throughout the decades it spent in exile during the apartheid era, and many of its most senior figures received training in the Soviet Union, including the powerful defense minister, Thandi Modise.
On the streets of Soweto, the vast urban settlement on the edge of Johannesburg that was a center of resistance to the apartheid regime, people say they still see Russia as an ally. “Russia was with us when we were in chains,” said Elijah Ndlovu, 51, who is unemployed. “We don’t say Russia is good by destroying Ukraine, but if you ask us where we stand in that fight, we have to be honest. We can never turn our back on Russia.”
I find that laughable, in that the USSR certainly wasn’t on the side of racial justice. But, yes, they were happy to sell arms to anyone calling themselves communist.
Shakes Matlhong, 33, said that his understanding of the conflict was hazy but that he has long regarded the United States as an “imperialist” power. “And now Russia is fighting back,” he said.
“Africa’s attitude to the war is that Russia is defending itself against NATO,” he said. “Russia never participated in any colonialism. It might be that Russia is wrong, but people’s attitude is determined by history.”
That Russia did not participate in the colonization of Africa and that the Soviet Union backed many of the continent’s liberation movements are points that have been exploited by Putin in his messaging, said Liubov Abravitova, Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa. She acknowledges an uphill struggle in trying to win the sympathies of Africans for the Ukrainian cause. Russia’s “only card is that they never colonized Africa,” she said. “But this is also true of Ukraine.”
I mostly find this amusing as well. Russia was no stranger to imperialism, having conquered vast territories, but it’s true that they never colonized Africa.
At the end of the day, the attitude that Ukraine is a first world problem is understandable. That much of the developing world relies on grain grown on the Ukraine steppe that is now in short supply and expensive, results in these countries wanting the war to end and don’t care about the results.
As the war has dragged on, it’s no surprise that many countries that initially protested the invasion are now softening their support, they’re dealing with costs and consequences that were unanticipated or underestimated.
Many victims get blamed for fighting back against their abuser when the unpleasantness starts spreading around. Instead of blaming Vlad for smacking around innocents, those innocents get yelled at for resisting, pissing off Daddy and causing him to raise gas prices on some random dude who’s house wasn’t just bombed to smithereens. Why couldn’t they just comply? The bad things are happening because Ukraine’s not accepting the abuse and now its inconveniencing others, not because Russia’s refusing to give up an invasion they’re losing and starting problems on purpose.
Ukraine didn’t burn it’s own crops. The food shortage is because Russia burned those crops and now the developing world is hoping that if they kowtow enough, Russia won’t burn them again. It’s constant game of “shhh, don’t upset Daddy or you’ll get us all hit” anyone familiar with DV will recognize. It’s easy to blame the kid who tries to stop it when the angry abuser starts swinging indiscriminately.
It seems to me that this is a bad calculation. I’m guessing this assumes that the US and UK would jump at a chance to defend India against Chinese aggression. As a laughable aside, do they think the Russians will help them? Freely? competently? What a joke.
I think it’s much easier to say to the Indians, “you didn’t have our backs, this is your problem now.”
That’s exactly how it’s seen.
In Mexico the news does cover the war impartially, but that’s about it. Few people talk about it, or give a damn one way or another. His Majesty has not gone along with sanctions. ON the other hand, he’s not talking about sending aid to Russia for some reason.
I understand all that, but the leadership in developing countries doesn’t care whose to blame, they simply want their grain shipments to come at the price that they budgeted for.
I think you’re leaving a lot out here. For example:
The UN approved an operation to protect civilians and Russia abstained on the promise that it would not turn into a regime-change operation. But, of course, it quickly did turn into a regime change operation which was specifically not authorized. And look at the Paradise Libya has become.
Secondly, you can say that Iraq is different and there are differences, but most of the rest of the world does not agree with that rationalization you cite. We took out a government that opposed us, we initially intended to put some functionary in Saddam’s place and then that morphed into an attempt at nation-building. But most of the rest of the world believes, whether justified or not, that the US would not allow a hostile government in Iraq and that it’s a democracy in name only.
And then there is Syria, where we still have troops BTW, where we tried to topple the Asad government using Al Qaeda-aligned forces as proxies.
And the “global war on terror” where assassinate our enemies in various countries around the world sometimes without authorization from the relevant governments.
There are lots of other examples.
Now, I was a cog in the national defense machine when most of this was happening, and I have no problem with the US throwing its weight around and using our influence to further our interests (my US foreign policy complaints revolve around not doing stupid stuff). But I understand that is what we are doing and am not deluding myself into believing that we are consistently acting on universal first principles to defering to the UN. We follow first principles when they are easy, convenient, or are in our interest, and we are happy to make exceptions when they are not. The rest of the world can see that hypocrisy for what it is.
And, again, I’m fine with the hypocrisy – I am chauvinistic in my belief that the US, for all our faults, is a better hegemon than the alternatives. But don’t kid yourself that we aren’t a hegemon and don’t act like one.
I think that we have a very poor track record in Africa, and that this means there is no interpretive lens available for the people of Africa that might cast the interventions of the US in a better light than “another colonial power”. I mean, that’s the long history of Africa, after all – getting colonized by Europeans who aren’t Russians. Maybe we look better than the British, French, Italians and Belgians, but that’s a low bar, and those countries are our “crowd”.
Asia is different. There are several countries we have a very good track record with, others not so much, but it’s a mixed thing, and also China has many of them worried. I’m sure the Phillipines, South Korea and Kuwait, for instance, have reason to think well of us.
Repeated for emphasis – not all hegemons are created equal, but hegemony is hegemony. It wouldn’t hurt the US to be transparent about that.
UN resolutions don’t carry as much weight in “third world” (known in the cold war as non-aligned countries) as we tend to believe they should. They were always being pressured, or “warned”, to vote this way or that by major countries…to the point they came to view it as extortion, which it was, so they tend towards a rather cynical view of UN resolutions. Touting that produces a lot of eye-rolls.
I suspect what we are seeing reflects a bit of push-back on the demonization of Russia, which is rampant in the press and social media, and a bit of pay-back for ordering people around. We screwed up in 2000, invading a country on BS, so why can’t this mess be the same mistake being made by different people? A bit too much sanctimony in our posture for their taste. Did we not support the Saudi invasion of Yemen?
Do they not realize that Ukraine is fighting for freedom of some white people? European white people, at that. It’s entirely different!
(I mean, if Putin were expanding into Kazakhstan or somewhere similar, there would be a small flurry of disapproval from the west, but that’s it. China is doubtless weighing the whiteness of Taiwan very carefully)
Yes. So did a bunch of African countries.
I don’t buy that US “sanctimony” and hypocrisy is a valid reason to actively or tacitly support Russian soldiers raping and killing civilians or Putin carpet bombing Ukrainian schools, apartment blocs, and hospitals (in a genocidal effort to eradicate Ukrainian national identity). Not to mention Putin jailing protestors and journalists, closing the internet, shutting down independent media, murdering and imprisoning political opponents, not to mention his ongoing war on gays, including the awful brutality against Chechnyan gays. How does US sanctimony/hypocrisy justify or mitigate any of this? The answer: it doesn’t.
Moral clarity is out of fashion, but where I’m from you base ethical choices on what’s right vs what’s wrong — not based on other people’s behaviors. I was out on the streets protesting the Iraq War, just like I oppose Putin’s intolerable actions in Ukraine. So I don’t buy “The US screwed up in Iraq, so Russia re-upping on its 300-year history of imperalist warmongering and empire building is fine,” just like I don’t buy “A woke liberal was mean to me on Facebook and pronouns annoy me, so now I vote for fascism.” People need to stop blaming others for their own shitty ethics and stop making excuses for their lack of moral consistency.
And maybe white people are too nice to say it, but since I’m black I’ll say it: South Africa’s black leaders look like dumb, gullible tools colluding with a Russian regime seeking to elevate white supremacists and white nationalists all over the world. Pathetic!
Does it really matter that much?
The “west” broadly defined has the economic, financial, industrial and military resources to deal with this without troubling, or being troubled by, the opinions of the “global South” over much.
Which “southism” itself ceases to exist as soon as it gets tested.
Is China an ally of the “global south”?
Is India certain of that.
For that matter, both India and Pakistan are considered “global south”, and also ready to nuke each other into glowing rubble.
On a less atomic level, Ethiopia and Eritrea regularly step up for some mutual slaughter.
Plenty of other simmering rivalries and resentments around.
One point that they might stop for a moment to consider, though. One that often eludes people from the “old West”: the US and W, Europe; nobody here has mentioned it. And also people from the “global south” funnily enough. A matter of geographic and historic perspective.
I’ll leave this for a bit to see if anyone can guess, before coming back after dinner.
@Beth: India currently has a right wing Hindu nationalist government, which is more ideologically aligned with a right-wing Christian nationalist government in Russia than a multicultural, pluralistic American government.
It’s not just about security.
(This also ties into the caste discrimination discussion from yesterday or so. Hindu nationalism has a very clear hierarchy, and is being brought to the US by Indian immigrants. There’s a lot of discrimination going on among the brown folks that the white folks (and even different brown folks) aren’t even aware of)
@DK: I suspect that for some it’s because they’re to nice, but for most of us (especially the misogynistic incels) it’s because if we say it the response is “what would a cracker like you know about it.”
And did not Iran support the north Yemeni Houthi’s invasion of south Yemen?
(Remember that until 1990 they were separate countries)
And are not both Iran and Saudi Arabia both part of the “global south”?
Or is Saudi excluded from that category, because reasons?
Yes, I’m sure that if only western media had been a wee bit more understanding of the historical traumas of Russia, the “global southists” would be right behind us. /snark
They have their own, albeit rather incoherent agendas.
Note the plural: Pakistanis and Indian both each complain about lack of support from the west against the other!
And as for westerners on social media, you can’t move without tripping over some alt-right, alt-left, old-left, paleo-con or “conspiraloon at the end of the horseshoe” being very “understanding” about poor persecuted Russia and the evil woke nazis of Ukraine.
Bad choices by bad governments are generally responsible for a country’s poverty and assorted problems. The same bad governments that fail their people again and again are once more making dumb choices. They’re grabbing an anchor.
Technically Saudi and the UAE and others were intervening in the latest of many Yemeni civil wars, but it was also because Iran was supporting the other side. It’s a proxy war, and those are rarely black-and-white in terms of moral clarity.
Moral clarity is never very strong in international affairs. Just look at China – where is the moral clarity regarding an ongoing genocide?
I’m old enough to well remember what a big issue Tibet used to be, and Tiananmen square. Today those are conveniently forgotten. Back in the day they were discussed but set aside when it was decided to give China most-favored-nation status and other benefits – for the greater good.
And now we have the NBA, video game companies, and Hollywood whoring themselves to the PRC’s fragile sensibilities for the almighty dollar and access to the Chinese market. And various organizations and companies that wittingly or unwittingly assists China in its system of repression.
And of course, there is the US support for Saudi Arabia, which has – at most – a very tenuous connection to any kind of moral purpose. We support them so they are our SOB’s and not, for instance, China’s.
So yes, moral clarity is out of fashion, but it was never really in fashion, and a “lack of moral consistency” in international relations is the norm and not the exception. The number of people who are actually consistent about such things is exceedingly tiny.
I mentioned above an aspect often missed by both “southists” and “westerners”.
The closest anyone here has got to it is Gustopher, albeit rather in reverse.
Which misses the reality that Russia has made war upon “European white people”; and repeatedly.
With very little consequence; which is probably why he thought he’d get away with it this time.
Leaving aside the pre-Putin period: Chechnya 1999-2008; Georgia 2008; Ukraine 2014/15.
So what is this thing that people miss?
The increasing level of annoyance of central and east Europeans when “global southists” and western horseshoe tankies belabour them as “colonialist Europeans”, tainted by their “legacy of imperialism” and alignment with the “American capitalist hegemon”.
Want to see a Balt or a Pole ready to chew iron and sh!t nails?
Start lecturing them on their guilt over the partition of Africa, the exploitation of Asia, and how they should be more understanding of the freedom from imperial guilt of Russia and the Soviet Union.
Or for that matter, chatting to say a Bulgarian about how only white Christian west European capitalists can be imperialists, when they have extremely unpleasant historical memories of the Ottoman Empire.
And Central Asians can get quite peeved about this as well; I recall a recent online argument that ended up with a several “southists” of various origins basically contending, in effect, that it was only really “imperialism” if they arrived by ocean going ship. And a Turkmen saying they were bunch of idiots who didn’t have a clue.
Point is, that if in future the “global south” expects much in the way of favours from the EU, they should recall the countries of eastern Europe are now members with veto rights, and prepare themselves for disappointment.
Trying to guilt-trip a Finn is unlikely to work out that well.
Moral clarity was in fashion in my household growing up. But then again, I went to high school in the shadow of Martin Luther King Center, which itself is up the road from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center. So maybe I grew up around people who think a little differently about the way you’re supposed to behave.
I expect goverments to engage in realpolitik vis a vis international relations. That’s not my complaint. Governments have to act pragmatically in the best interest of their people, or their corporate backers and donors as the case may be.
But there’s no excuse for Joe Blow off the street, in his failure to call out Putin, Xi, and MBS. Like Elijah Ndlovu, 51, unemployed. “We can never turn our back on Russia.” O rly, Mr. Ndlovu? Putin worked overtime to elect anti-black bigots like Trump and Le Pen, you really think his Russia wouldn’t feed your black azz to the meat grinder if you weren’t a useful tool? Chile, please. Stupid.
What part of my comments led you to think I made that argument? You’ve strawmanned my post.
To clarify due to edit unavailability, the topic is explaining the apathy of many nation towards this particular conflict, which is a far cry from them supporting Russia no matter what they do.
The US has definitely misbehaved in the recent past but let’s call a spade a spade. Despite Russia rationalizations and justifications, the Ukraine invasion is way beyond the pale of what the US did. Torture and rape as part of state sanctioned policy? Yes, we did torture but this is a whole different scale. Intentional bombing of civilians? Sequestration of thousands of children? All these things are still ongoing by the way. Nothing the US has done in the recent past can be compared with what Russia is doing and people who don’t see that are deluded, propagandists or nihilists.
This is going to sound awful, but I’m not convinced the Chechens and Georgians are white enough, or European enough. Almost no one in the US could find those countries on a map, or even guess the continent if they saw them on a map. There are beards, and there are Muslims, and it’s all very hard to say whether they are like us or are other. Remember, the Irish weren’t considered white for ages.
Chechnya and Georgia didn’t really change US policy much.
The 2014-2015 Russian incursion into Ukraine did — not enough to get us to roll back Russian gains in Ukraine, but enough to get us to start aiding Ukraine before the recent invasion, and switch to lethal aid after the recent invasion.
@Gustopher: Slavs were untermenschen in classic Nazi belief, and there’s a history in America of them not being considered fully white. That’s why the Putin love coming from today’s Nazis is so ironic.
Quite likely Chechens being Muslim has that effect for a lot of Americans; and indeed quite a few west Europeans.
Which is rather ironic, when you consider that they are pretty definitively Caucasian, as in actually from the Caucasus.
Same goes for Georgians; and they are certainly Christians. Since around CE 319.
And doubly ironic that “global southists” ignore them precisely because they are white enough for them NOT to count as victims of empire. (And because of that odd “it’s not imperial if by land” attitude.)
I suspect it was just all too easy to discount them as “a quarrel in a faraway land between people of which we know nothing.”
Like a lot of the “small wars” of the post-Cold War period.
If Russia had won its planned “over in a few days” decapitation war, they’d probably have gotten away with it again. At least, that was Putin’s idea.
@Andy: Oh, hegemony is certainly our barely-concealed goal. I just think it’s of a very different variety than the sort the Chinese and Russians seek over their regions.
As noted in the OP, I opposed the Libya op. Hell, President Obama was dragged into it kicking and screaming. But the reason it became a regime change op rather than the humanitarian op authorized by UNSCR 1973 was the lack of NATO ground troops. When you put massive airpower against the regime elements (who were, after all, the humanitarian threat) in the midst of an ongoing uprising (the reason Khaddafy posed a humanitarian threat to begin with) the leader is going to get killed by the uprisers.
In Syria, Obama tried in vein to find good guys among the elements in the civil war to support. But, again, the US didn’t intervene until said civil war turned out to be a humanitarian nightmare. I opposed intervention there are well but suspect we’d have done more had Libya not turned into what it did.
As noted in the OP, I get that Iraq is the cudgel that will be used against the US for years whenever we cite the rule of law. And, to some extent, it’s fair. But, again, it’s just silly to suggest it’s morally similar to Russia’s annexation of its neighbor.
That said, if the developing world reaction is simply “Superpowers, whaddya gonna do?” then I get the non-reaction to Ukraine. It’s not their fight, after all.
“Many in the Global South see the war very differently than we in the West.”
People with dramatically different lived experiences, world views, relationships, cultures, etc. see things differently? WHO’DA THUNK?!
Re: As noted in the OP, I get that Iraq is the cudgel that will be used against the US for years whenever we cite the rule of law. And, to some extent, it’s fair. But, again, it’s just silly to suggest it’s morally similar to Russia’s annexation of its neighbor.
Iraq should not be used as a cudgel, I view it as an example of how decent people are capable of making terrible mistakes by falling into the trap of believing their own BS. Seems clear to me Putin made a very similar one, believing, as Dick Cheney did, that they would be welcomed as liberators.
Putin nevertheless has to try to save face, so it’s not completely dissimilar to our “peace with honor” in Viet Nam. This sort of behavior is not atypical in history. However onerous, realpolitik demands face-saving not be dismissed in finding a way to negotiating a stop the butchery.
In understanding the enemy, reductio ad Hitlerum is a poor approach.
Differently from whom, precisely?
@JohnSF: Did… did you read what I quoted? It was the subtitle of the article…
My point is that grouping the “West” as historically unitary is very arguable; as is similarly grouping the “South”.
It’s a bit of a habit of both the “Old West” (USA, Canada, W Europe) and the “global south” self-appointed spokespersons that infuriates a lot of central/east Europeans. See my previous comment.
Worth googling “Westsplaining”
Not a few east Europeans think “southsplaining” might be a thing as well.