There Is No Global Struggle Between Democracy and Authoritarianism
Chrystia Freeland joins in exaggerating the significance of protests in Ukraine:
But as in 1989 the most important fault line in the world [bold mine-DL] today runs through a cold, crowded, euphoric public square in Eastern Europe.
Freeland is wrong about this, but her op-ed is interesting as a window into the thinking of people that say such things. If one assumes that there is a “global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism” going on, and if one also believes that the competing factions in Ukrainian politics represent different sides in this struggle, it might almost make sense to think that the most important fault line in the world runs through Kiev. It would still be overlooking a number of more important and dangerous fault lines in East Asia or the Near East, but it would make a certain amount of sense. Since there is no such global struggle to speak of, and the different factions in Ukraine represent competing interests inside one country, all of this effort to impose a grand ideological interpretation onto these events is misguided and wasted.
If there is competition today between “democratic capitalism” and state capitalism, that is obviously a dramatically different kind of competition from the one between the U.S. and the USSR. Thinking of it as a continuation or extension of the latter, as Freeland does, is simply wrong. There is nothing like the Cold War going on today, nor is there even a “cool war” between two ideological camps. Democracy is not at stake in the contest in Ukraine, so we should stop pretending that it is.