I am continuing my exploration of what happened in Ukraine in 2014 and 2022. Much to my surprise, what has happened in Ukraine explains a lot about what has happened in the west. To do that, I am referring to what we have learned recently as a result of the second invasion of Ukraine be Russia and a wonderful book that I recommend to one and all, The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder a history professor from Yale University. That book written in 2018, helps us to understand what is happening there now. And here too for that matter.
It was shocking to some that in the 2010s America and Europe saw the rise of authoritarian political leaders and the serious decay of democracy. Many of us never believed this was possible. How could so many countries, such as England, the United States, and many others seem to lose faith in democracy? The Russians gave up on Europe and turned instead to Ukraine. The Brexit referendum seemed like a trip into madness, but was really another case of the people asking for and getting a wrecking ball for a leader. The Americans did the same thing.
Russian oligarchs took advantage of the vacuum of reason and good government along with the weakness of democratic institutions to pillage their county and deposit the spoils in offshore bank accounts, shell companies, and engineered dark deals of capitalism eating its young. After a brief flirtation with democracy, that basically ended soon after Boris Yeltsin selected Vladimir Putin as the next leader, Russia went from Communism direct to predatory capitalism of the most extreme sort.
Surprising to many, political practices that found favour in the Russian oligarchic state found fertile ground in the United States and Britain. The politics of inevitability had thought that influence would travel from the west to the east but reality turned the tables. Snyder explained it this way,
Concepts and practices moved from east to west. An example is the word “fake,” as in “fake news.” This sounds like an American invention, and Donald Trump claimed it, as his own, but the term was used in Russia and Ukraine long before it began it’s career in the United States. As Snyder explained in his book, “It meant creating a fictional text that posed as a piece of journalism, both to spread confusion about a particular event and to discredit journalism as such. Eternity politicians first spread fake news themselves, then claim that all news is fake, and finally that only their spectacles are real.” [I will explain his idea of eternity politics and inevitability politics in a subsequent post]
Again, to many this was a shocking event. Some attributed the appearance of fake news in the west as a shocking and completely unanticipated development, but that only proves how blind the political elites were in the United States.
We in the west had a lot to learn from what happened in Ukraine.