Democracy vs Autocracy Is the Wrong Framing for the War in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support, March 16, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support as his country is besieged by Russian forces, at the Capitol in Washington, March 16, 2022 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).
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On the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, amid the cacophony of war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he heard the “sound of a new Iron Curtain” falling across Europe. That message resounded loudly in Washington and across Europe, where ever since the West has framed the war in ideological terms: Autocratic Russia, they explain, is waging a brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, because the latter aspired to follow the Western model of liberal democracy. As such, the world must help Ukraine to defend itself—or risk imperiling the entire “free world.” This strategic narrative has been very effective in mobilizing the United […]

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