The World has always been divided into people who believe in: Authoritarianism and Autocracies as the ‘better’ way to govern, with little to no tolerance for different peoples, or ideas to the ones they hold dear; and people who believe in Liberalism, and Democracies as the ‘best’ form of governance, with a much greater tolerance and understanding of different peoples and ideas, than the ones they grew up with. Those two different ideologies have primarily shaped the post WWII World that we have lived in, with the two camps divided by various walls, real and ideological, with deep suspicions on either side.
Over the past few years, and certainly after the advent of Trump as the shockingly improbable US President, the ultra-Conservative & far-Right (relegated to the edge of the post WWII Western ideologies and societies), came to the forefront and resurrected the hostilities between the two camps with dangerously escalating passions.
Well, in 2022, the festering cold-war between ideologies turned hot, in Ukraine, and with it pulled in the World into an active war, with the World again split in the two camps of nationalist Autocracies, led by Russia and China, and more integrating Democracies, led by the fitful, unstable bastion of liberty & democracy, the United States, and the rest of the liberal West - with countries like India straddling the fence.
For decades, for the most part, after WWII, the Conservative/Fascist elements of the World retreated as the Liberal World of the Allies (the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and most of the rest of the Western World and their former colonies that had as Allies defeated the forces of Germany, Japan and fascist Italy) dominated.
Within those Liberal-Allied armed forces were the partnerships with the brutal Autocratic regime of Stalin in Russia, and the soon to become ‘Communist’ China under the leadership of equally destructive Mao Zedong (between those two they killed approximately 50 Million of their own people). Yet, it was an overwhelming victory for the Liberal societies over the peoples with far-right beliefs of racial, cultural and military exclusiveness and superiority.
At the end of the second Great War, there was no doubt left that multi-racial and mixed-societies (epitomized with the multi-racial USA), and the ‘British and European empires’ with their human and natural resources of the ‘Colonies’, were stronger than the ‘exclusive and pure races’, whatever their colour or creed, belief system, or for that matter their history of perceived superiority.
Outside of the Soviet Union and the emerging Communist China, the unconditional victory of the mainly Democratic World silenced the autocrats and supremacists in the West for decades, but it did not eradicate in them the sentiments of racial, cultural, military superiority, but drove it into the dark corners of the ‘fringe elements’.
Those darker elements of humanity needed time for the World to become ambivalent to the memories of their atrocities, to reemerge, as the mistakes and lessons of the past got buried in years of general peace, and extraordinary post WWII prosperity of the World, especially on the Continent of Europe.
Then the greatest surviving autocracy with legitimate credentials of being called a ‘Super Power’, Russia (the Soviet Union), crumbled and disappeared into an imploded collapse of rubble and pieces of its former self - further cementing the idea that democracies were stronger & more durable.
Out of the debris of the imploded Soviet Union, with a sense of growing grievance, and a burning personal and national ambition to return Russia to former power and status, with himself at the head, came an actively scheming former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin.
For years, with an especially deft hand and patient-strategy, Putin worked to rebuild the influence and strength of the former Russia, with an ace-up-the-sleeve (the retention of World’s biggest nuclear arsenal) to back his audacious and controversial moves on the International Stage; and leveraging his relatively weak assets of the former Soviet Union, and the naivety of an indulgent West, Putin systematically rebuilt the influence and international heft of Russia as a major player. As his strategies bore fruit and Russia again became an increasingly influential player on the World stage, his confidence grew till he made his biggest move, the swift and bold annexation of Crimea.
The World’s indecisive and divided response, made up mainly of verbal protestations and general apathy, confirmed to Putin the lack of ideological conviction on the part of the larger Democratic World. Especially with the hollowing out of the ideologically split America, the hereto ‘Leader of the Free-World’, which itself seemed to be at odds with its democratic values - and it’s too many blatantly hypocritical, interventionist, regime changing wars, which robbed it of credibility. That belief, that the US and the European ‘powers’, including the former Great Briton, were weak, divided, and indecisive, led Putin to ignore all their warnings and move ahead with confidence with his open invasion-assault preparations and plans to invade Ukraine.
In spite of the unexpectedly strong response from the West and the rest of the World, Putin moved forward undeterred because he didn’t believe that the West, or the World for that matter, had enough resolve to stay the course over a longer period of time as he escalated the assault, in spite of the botched and slow start with his armed forces.
Putin is still pushing ahead in spite of harsh Western sanctions that are meaningfully hurting the Russian economy, and the unexpectedly determined and effective resistance of Ukrainians, as he does not believe that the West is willing to actively oppose him all the way to the nuclear option. In that assumption, so far, he is quite right. Everything else, including severe economic sanctions, he thinks he can manage. But he has, seemingly, moderated his ambitions from the conquest of the whole of Ukraine, to perhaps just the eastern parts of the Country, already more than less under his control.
The West continues to press down on him and his major internal allies (the Oligarchs) with increasingly severe economic sanctions, waiting for the pain to become unbearable enough for Putin to stop his destructive invasion and settle for much less than he so confidently thought he could get with relatively little effort, as with Crimea.
All Putin has really done is ‘awaken the sleeping giant’, the Democratic West, with a shock. The realization has been driven home that Autocracies are fundamentally incompatible with Democracies and therefore never benign, nor are ‘partners’ in an integrated World of peaceful co-existence. The revived and very real threat of ‘hot wars’ between the two camps of Autocracies and Democracies have once again become a reality, and the rapid rearming processes have begun with the war machines cranked up to full.