The Ukraine Crisis Is the Fruit of the West's Moral Laxness

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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A Ukrainian soldier at his post in the center of the country this week.
A Ukrainian soldier at his post in the center of the country this week. Credit: Anatolii Stepanov / AFP
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

Regardless of the way the terrifying saga on the Ukrainian border ends, one thing is already clear. This extreme situation – what will be “the largest invasion since World War II,” as Joe Biden put it – is a direct result of the West’s laxness in the face of an increasing number of totalitarian and oppressive forces across the globe.

More and more trial balloons have been floated in the real world, from Venezuela to China to Belarus to Afghanistan to Myanmar, all proving a simple fact: The Western liberal order, supposedly embodying freedom, is weak. It's the one that in the early 1990s was declared victorious by Francis Fukuyama, who labeled this development “the end of history.”

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But this liberal order isn't to be depended on at a time of crisis or an awakening of nations against the tyrannies they live under. It's not to be counted on to support people – and justice.

Maybe it was always this way. Maybe the distance was always great between reality and this pose of good order with its great pretensions.

But in the past, things weren't out in the open so much. It was once easier to deceive people. Now, all such feebleness, all such looking away or ignoring evil despite cries for help filters much faster into the world’s awareness, into the big story of humanity. We should remember that disintegration is always a matter of accumulation.

Even if the newscasts and public debate have forgotten the people of Belarus and Myanmar, reality doesn't forget them, the world’s subconscious doesn’t forget. All those waiting for the right moment to raise their heads don’t forget either. When the strong stand beside the weak because they’re weak and extending a hand for help, or when evil is faced because it flies in the face of one’s values, this is above all a matter of strategic interests, more than a value or the bestowing of grace.

Those who don’t stand beside the weak, choosing to turn their heads and move on while ignoring an issue, are destined to face the stronger side that has been abusing the weak. It will have to invest much more strength and many more resources.

This is what is happening now on Ukraine’s borders, this is the mess the United States and NATO have cooked up for themselves. In that sense, the West's mobilization with its dramatic words only highlights all the past and present neglect when the West ostensibly had no material interest in standing beside justice.

It’s no coincidence that Belarus is Russia’s main partner in the current thrust against Ukraine. Belarus dared raise its head. It saw that nothing terrible followed.

It saw that it could intercept a plane and kidnap and abuse a passenger. It saw that it could kidnap and murder its citizens and brutally put down protests. And now it's Russia’s greatest ally. This isn't just a geographic or geopolitical matter, it’s mainly a matter of mental state.

The audacity of Belarus joining Russia, of its choosing sides and cooperating with this unscrupulous gambit, stems mainly from Belarus’ instinctive understanding of how deep the West's impotence runs. It understands the extent to which the West's pretensions are hollow, even if they were always so.

It’s important for us, for anyone in the Western world, to understand the high cost of this impotence – just as it’s important to understand the extent to which morality is the strongest bulwark of human societies.

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