For many people outside the West, Russia is not important enough to hate

The writer is a contributing editor for the FT, president of the Center for Liberal Strategy, Sofia, and colleague at IWM Vienna

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, American scholars will ask lamentably: “Why do they hate us?” A year after Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, a variation on that question has begun to take shape: “Why don’t they hate Surname?”

Of course, they refer to Putin’s Russia. The reluctance of non-Western governments to impose sanctions on Moscow can easily be explained by economic interests. But how to explain why the non-Western public does not feel more morally outraged at the Kremlin’s blatant aggression?

A new study, United West, Divided by the Rest, reveals that Russia’s wars and military failures have not forced people in many non-Western countries to lower their views. about Russia or question its relative strength. Russia is considered by 79% of people in China as an “ally” or a “partner” (unsurprisingly). But the same is true for 80% of Indians and 69% of Turks. Furthermore, about three-quarters of respondents in each of these countries believe that Russia is stronger, or at least as strong as they felt before the war.

And while the majority of Americans and Europeans want Ukraine to win even if it means a longer war and economic hardship for them, most Chinese, Indians and Turks present expressed their views that they wanted the war to end as soon as possible – even if it meant giving up some of its territory. They see Western support for Kiev as motivated by reasons other than defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity or its democracy.

Western support for Ukraine, especially the supply of advanced weapons, has made it easier for non-Western nations to accept the Kremlin’s narrative of the conflict as a proxy for the conflict. confrontation between Russia and the West. This explains why the reverse of Moscow’s army at the hands of Ukrainian forces is largely unrecognized to many in the so-called southern hemisphere. If Russia is confronting the West as a whole, it is no surprise that it has failed.

Faced with such public attitudes, Western analysts often lament the corrosive impact of Russian propaganda and the legacy of colonialism. But far more important is that Europeans see the war as a return of the Cold War-style polarization between the two antagonistic blocs, while others tend to believe that the world is being divided into many centers. power mind. In the words of a former senior Indian diplomat, for many outside the West, “the war in Ukraine is about the future of Europe, not the future of world order.”

Speaking recently to journalists, writers and politicians in Colombia, I also discovered a certain discontent with Europe’s geographical prerogative. What irks the non-Western “streets” is that when something happens in Europe, it is immediately seen as a global concern; whereas if it takes place in Africa or Latin America, this almost never happens. By ignoring the war in Ukraine, many outside the West, knowingly or unconsciously, question Europe’s central role in global politics.

While Putin and his propagandists may be relieved by the way non-Western societies see what’s happening in Ukraine, the question “why don’t they hate them” also has an answer. less flattering response to Moscow. Developing countries do not resent Putin’s aggression because Russia has ceased to be seen as a global superpower. As for countries like India and Turkey, Russia has become like them, so they need not fear that. The usual prerogative of regional powers is not to be hated outside of their region; Moscow now enjoys this privilege.

The Soviet Union was an ideological superpower. Soviet advisers in the so-called third world in the 1970s and 1980s were there to stir up revolutions. On the other hand, Putin does not have a transformative agenda other than his imperial project in the post-Soviet space. The Wagner Group in Africa are mercenaries fighting for money, not ideas. Paradoxically, it is Russia’s lack of soft power that has left the non-Western world relatively indifferent to what Moscow is doing in Ukraine.

Now that it is just a “great power of the middle class” among many others, Russia’s wars are mixed with all other conflicts around the world – they are accompanied by violence. in Syria, Libya, Ethiopia and Myanmar. The war in Ukraine was not a turning point in the imagination of non-Westerners. So the answer to the question, “why don’t they hate them?” Then simple. Is because Russia is no longer important enough to hate.

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