Right now, Ukraine is engaged in an existential struggle. There’s no doubt about the overall outcome for Russia—it’s already lost. There’s nothing that Russia can possibly gain from this conflict that will offset the tremendous cost in men and materiel, not to mention the incredible economic and diplomatic damage. Historian Kamil Galeev has outlined the possible futures for Russia. There are no good outcomes. All of them point to a Russia that is more isolated, poorer, and less stable that it was going into this war.

But Russia’s diminishment doesn’t guarantee Ukraine’s future. To be positioned in a way that Ukraine can not just rebuild from the damage Russia has done, but vault past the place it held when the invasion started—as one the poorest countries in Europe—it needs to secure a victory that means it will not be constantly fighting a rearguard action against attempts to destabilize the government and carve off pieces of the nation through either internal or external conflict.

If Ukraine can do that, if it can not just secure a ceasefire, but a real victory, the change will be enormous. However, as Canadian diplomat Chris Alexander outlines, the victory won’t just be Ukraine’s. It will also be a victory for democracy. Perhaps the most important victory since World War II.

That’s because Russia is a chaos agent. The idea that Russia promoted the election of Donald Trump in the United States as a means of causing internal division and weakening America’s role overseas isn’t a conspiracy. It’s not even a question. It’s just one example of how Russia has operated in nation after nation around the world. 

Russia knows where the sore spots are, because the lines of weakness in most democracies haven’t moved in centuries. There’s racism, classism, xenophobia, sexism, fear of the LGBTQ community, and more racism. Russia didn’t just support Trump’s message of white supremacy and fear of immigrants, it bought radio time in heavily Black communities and ran radio ads in which supposedly Black Democrats expressed their doubts that Hillary Clinton had that community’s back. The held rallies supporting “the wall.” Russia loves walls, because walls divide.

In Europe, Russia’s impact is, if anything, much greater. Try this is a recycling project: Russia wages a war in Syria that generates millions of refugees; Russia then funds anti-immigrant movements across Europe and floods social media with messages that these refugees are scary, violent, and Not Like Us; finally Russia uses the hard-right nationalist parties that embrace this message by positioning them as Nazis so that it can justify any action it wants against NATO or the EU. Suffering is good for Russia, because it knows how to turn disruption into a weapon.

Now imagine that chaos agent shuffling off the stage, reduced to another inward-pointing North Korea, or an international pariah with greatly reduced access. 

It wouldn’t end racism. It wouldn’t end xenophobia. It wouldn’t end attacks on the LGBTQ community. But it would greatly diminish the dark money and social media engines that make running on those platforms profitable for politicians and a big source of revenue for right-wing media.

A victorious Ukraine would have an immediate effect on it’s neighbors. “The Belarusian democratic movement, now mostly in exile, would find new traction inside the country,” writes Alexander. “Their deflated dictator, now clinging to Putin’s last coat-tails, would be discarded.” The “separatist” regions in Moldova and Georgia, both of which consist almost entirely of mercenaries on Moscow’s dime, would collapse even more quickly. And from there the dominos might really start to fall in a democratic direction.

The North Caucasus, terrorized and forgotten by Putin, would see their cultural and linguistic diversity restored. Chechnya and Dagestan could throw off thugs like the Kadyrovs. Kazakhstan and Central Asia would find new markets, tailoring new reforms to national realities.”

Other areas plagued by Russia’s support for low-level insurgencies and high-level political disruption would benefit. Libya. Venezuela. Multiple states in West Africa. All of them would have a chance to run a government not always undermined by Russia’s support for actions meant to keep them in disarray. Given some time without direct Russian intervention, Syria might shake off Assad — which would have a huge effect across the Middle East.

If Ukraine wins—wins decisively enough that Russia is forced into one of the species of withdrawal that Galeev outlines—it’s not just a win for Ukraine. It’s a history-altering win for everyone. For democracy everywhere, it would be a chance to address issues that are very real, without the constant interference by an agent that benefits from making things worse.

“Ukraine is blazing a path towards a post-Putin world,” writes Alexander. “To get there, Russia’s defeat needs to be decisive, with Ukraine’s victory reaching all its territory, airspace, and coasts, including Crimea. For this to happen, full military support is needed: it depends on us.”

Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 3:18:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 3:26:14 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 3:35:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The body of photographer Max Levin, who had been missing since March 13, was found yesterday as Ukrainian forces began to clean up the body-strewn streets of Irpin and Bucha.

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Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 5:28:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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This is right on the west side of Chernihiv. It’s been some time since @War_Mapper updated the situation. It will be interesting to see how the next set of maps look.

Chernihiv area

Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 5:29:34 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

One very good boy in a very sad story.

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Saturday, Apr 2, 2022 · 6:40:06 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Nice confirmation. 

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