When the US media outlets are clamoring that they “stand by Ukraine,” Washington is not that determined to safeguard the so-called democracy. Writes Ai Jun
The Ukraine conflict is a battle of “democracy vs autocracy,” “good vs evil” – this has been a narrative popular in most Western countries. Some politicians and media outlets lead the chorus, claiming this is a struggle against authoritarianism, while NATO’s eastward expansion is a mission to “promote democracy.” Those who oppose condemning and sanctioning Russia are labeled as “anti-democratic.”
“We face a fundamentally changed security environment where authoritarian powers are increasingly prepared to use force to get their way,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, just one day before the NATO summit. “Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of independent nations to choose their own path… I expect we will also address the role of China in this crisis,” he noted.
This is an insult to democracy. How ironic it is – sending humanitarian supplies to the conflict zone is “undemocratic,” but sending weapons isn’t.
When spinning the argument, the West is not fighting for democracy, but turning “democracy” into a cult slogan – pretending all the conundrums, caused by the West’s own provocations, will be solved by shouting the slogan out loud, Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times.
The US did not see the war coming. It has no plan to cope with it. As a result, the US is using “democracy vs autocracy” as an excuse to justify its response, lying to both Americans and the world, according to Shen.
NATO messed up
Soon after the conflict broke out, US President Joe Biden set the tone on February 24: This is a “contest between democracy and autocracy”, similar to how he made the struggle between “democracy” and “autocracy” the lodestar of his presidency.
Biden has been echoed by US media outlets. On Tuesday, the Atlantic wrote, “Ukrainians and the world’s democratic powers must work toward the only acceptable endgame… A victory for Ukraine really will be a victory for all who believe in democracy.” On March 18, the Washington Post said, “The newly important American political axis: Democracy vs. autocracy.” On March 3, the New York Times published an article, “The War in Ukraine Holds a Warning for the World Order.”
This is how the US attempts to control the global narrative and politics – through political warfare under the disguise of “democracy.” And one of the US tactics is making use of small countries, inciting them to provoke a major power, until the latter responds. Washington then accuses the major power of “bullying” the others, and mobilizes the so-called democratic countries to jointly confront “authoritarianism,” Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
As Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng noted, when some big countries do not want to get dragged into conflicts and bring harm to themselves, they turn small countries into their cat’s paw and even use them to fight proxy wars. One watches its own arms dealers, bankers and oil tycoons make a fortune out of the war while leaving the people of a small country with the wounds of war that take years even decades to heal.
The value of “democracy” is a convenient excuse for Washington to permanently bind its allies on its war chariot. In other words, “democracy” is used as a guise for the US government to control Americans at home, as well as allies and partners abroad, Lü said.
It is against this backdrop and narrative that NATO’s constant expansion has been taking place. After Western politicians find themselves unable to progress in domestic governance, they put more focus on making diplomatic headway abroad in their own self-interests. They kept driving Russia into a strategic corner, underestimating its reaction. This time, Moscow decided to no longer hold back its temper. This stunned the West.
NATO has made an error, but instead of fixing its mistake, the bloc chose to cover its wrongdoing through the rhetoric of “democracy vs autocracy.” Mirroring a cult-like mind-set, NATO pursues self-destructive behavior, yet believes it is invulnerable as long as it sticks to its faith – “democracy,” Shen noted.
‘Determination’ to safeguard ‘democracy’
When the US media outlets are clamoring that they “stand by Ukraine,” Washington is not that determined to safeguard the so-called democracy.
During his recent interview with CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has yet to obtain a yes-or-no answer regarding NATO membership for his country, was told, “you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open.” In other words, the US could have prevented or stopped the conflict sooner by making an open pledge. It didn’t.
This also explains why the US claims to stand with Ukraine, while refusing to be directly involved in the conflict against Russia, or impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The US has been sanctioning Russia, but skirting around the banks involved in the energy sector, and harvesting gains from the crisis.
Trampling on democracy
Ukraine is not the first battlefield in which the US stirred up confrontation in the name of “democracy,” and it will definitely not be the last.
Over the years, the US incited “color revolutions” in Eurasia and instigated the “Arab Spring” in West Asia and North Africa. For countries reluctant to listen to the US, Washington turned to political interference, military intervention, economic blockades, and even regime subversion or regime change.
In the Middle East, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, the US launched multiple wars in the name of “anti-terrorism” and “democratic transformation,” resulting in nothing but humanitarian disasters. In the end, democracy is nowhere to be found in those countries, while long-lasting turbulence, stagnated development and displaced people can be seen everywhere.
Such a narrative about democracy hinders European countries from making pragmatic choices and hurts their interests, as opposing voices could be immediately labeled as Russian “sympathizers” or “puppet.” Stoltenberg should realize it is the US that is influencing independent nations.
In the end, it will lead to the larger cracks in the transatlantic alliance. EU countries may temporarily strengthen their ties with the US. This has nothing to do with “democracy.” The seeming unity stems only from their fear of Russia’s move. They simply forget that it is their abuse of “democracy” that has led Ukraine to where it is today. Moreover, their solidarity will be seriously tested as “energy prices spike” and as the refugee crisis wears on, Vox reported.
Defining the conflict as “democracy vs autocracy” is hypocritical. NATO has been poking and irritating Russia for years, miscalculating how the bear would react. This is a mega accident in the US-dominated geopolitical game in Europe. The accident has offered a lesson – when infinitely piling pressure on a rival, don’t underestimate the determination and endurance of the other side.
Weaponizing democracy could backfire.
Ai Jun is a reporter with Global Times.