There’s one thing that’s going well in this Ukraine situation, and that’s the general consensus—China notwithstanding—that Putin is an illegitimate aggressor.
This is something we should celebrate and avoid taking as a given.
Putin has been working very hard to sell an alternative narrative, i.e., that he’s some combination of 1) a peacekeeper helping Russian people inside Ukraine, and 2) a victim of NATO aggression acting in self-defense.
The US in particular has done an extraordinary job of countering these claims through rhetoric, timely and unprecedented sharing of intelligence, and coalition-building with leaders from the rest of the world.
The global coalition to admonish Putin, not the war itself.
I mean…it’s gone extremely well. Amazingly so. The dominant narrative is currently that Putin is a lying bully launching multiple information warfare campaigns and false-flag campaigns—which have been unsuccessful.
In short, Russia has been canceled. And that’s a good thing, although I feel massively for her people.
But we absolutely must acknowledge that this could have gone another way.
If Trump, or DeSantis, or even some other types of Democrat were in office (Obama?), I could have easily seen a silent invasion, more like what happened in Crimea.
In this model, Putin gives the same narrative, pushes it super hard just like he has been, and instead of violently opposing it the US simply goes quiet. It issues some sanctions, makes some public statements, but doesn’t organize an intelligence campaign or a counter-narrative backed by the entire western world.
In this model, we just look the other way. I think Trump would have done this. I think Putin would have convinced him, and therefore the US and the west, that we’d been too aggressive against Russia in the past, and those Russian folks really did need help in Ukraine. And pretty soon Russia would be in charge of the country.
As we’ve seen from other wars in Myanmar, Ethiopia, Syria, and many others, it’s quite possible to have hundreds of thousands—or even millions—be killed or displaced, and have the US government and US media basically run the stories on page 7.
The fact that this didn’t happen this time is tremendous, and we should recognize that.
- Mar 7, 2022 — I want to be extra clear. It’s the organized acceptance that Putin is a dictator and a bully that I think is going well. The war and the suffering of Ukraine and its people is obviously devastating on so many levels.