Rome had Nero, America has Trump
When the plurality of the population that defines government is replaced by a different one that no longer understands the contract justifying the government’s existence all hell breaks loose. © — Ed Barnes
The deal with the USSR and America for much of the last century was no war. Why? Both countries had been in one. And the soldiers who returned didn’t want to repeat the mess.
The dissidents of the late Soviet era fought for democracy and human rights under the Helsinki accords, an agreement between the West and the USSR that recognized the inviolability of the post-World War II frontiers in Europe and pledged signatory nations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
That all went out the window 25 years later, when the majority of Russians decided to regard Putin as a temporary redemption. Thanks to high oil prices, the former KGB officer, at the cost of diplomatic isolation and the suppression of democratic rights, restored growth, order and national pride.
Trump and Putin today appear willing, ready and eager to ditch globalisation and liberal values altogether to focus on making their respective countries great again.
If xenophobic populism triumphs again, there will be no human rights and fundamental freedoms for other nations to aspire to. If liberal, market-oriented democratic societies begin to go the way of Lukashenko’s Belarus, China is unlikely to lend a helping hand.
Why have ordinary Ukrainians persisted in their belief in change? In short, because they have seen the moral and physical collapse of something that once seemed permanent: their own corrupt leaders.
Whether there are enough people to stop the next great collapse towards oligarchic nationalism in Europe remains an open question.
Two revolutions later (2004 and 2014), Ukrainians are networked, aware, educated and — for now — psychologically resilient. Unfortunately, there’s not much they can do, except continue fighting against Russian invaders, while America’s narcissist-in-chief feeds his insatiable ego.