If you study history, you know that grand intentions can backfire. The French Revolution ended, not with democracy, but with Emperor Napoleon’s failed attempt to conquer Europe.
A 1960’s attempt to bring democracy to Chile brought about the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
Now, after reading the past two weeks of the blog “Letters from an American,” I have hope that recent Russian attempts to promote autocratic rule may strengthen democracies (https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/).
A quick victory for the 150,000 Russian troops invading Ukraine would have boosted Russia’s attempts to brand democracies as incompetent and unChristian.
In early April Sergey Karaganov, a former advisor to Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that “‘Democracy is failing and authoritarianism rising because of democracy’s bad moral foundations.’”
Recently Russian legislator Vyacheslav Nikonov defended the current attacks on Ukraine by saying, “In reality, we embody the forces of good in the modern world…We are on the side of good against the forces of absolute evil…This is truly a holy war that we’re waging, and we have to win it and of course we will because our cause is just…victory will certainly be ours.”
Making the invasion of Ukraine a moral crusade is an obvious attempt to get the religious right to overlook the negatives of autocracy and embrace the power to enforce religious values.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an ally of Putin’s, also opposes multiculturalism and embraces “the Christian family model.” Both Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Fox News personality Tucker Carlson are fans. Former Vice President Mike Pence denounced immigration and abortion at a conference in Budapest last November,
Next month Prime Minister Orban will be a featured speaker at the American-based Conservative Political Action Conference in Hungary.
But Putin’s willingness to see thousands die for his personal ambitions displays the underside of autocracy and is uniting democracies throughout Europe.
The failure of massive Russian forces to defeat Ukraine in a matter of days refutes the idea that governance by a strong leader functions more effectively. Russian troops had no motive to fight, supply lines and equipment failed, and military leaders hesitated to tell Putin what was happening.
Seeing a free state attacked without provocation has strengthened NATO. The 27 member nations have worked together in sanctioning Russian businesses and supplying Ukraine forces with drones, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems and repair parts for planes. Surprisingly, each nation has agreed on a long-term plan to phase out imports of Russian oil and gas for which they are now jointly paying $800 million a day.
And the Russian attack seems to have halted the advance of some far-right politicians. Putin and Orban have enough control of their nations’ media and election processes to retain their roles, but fellow autocrat Janez Jansa lost the leadership of Slovenia to a party that formed just five months ago.
And French President Emmanuel Macron soundly defeated a serious right-wing challenger, Marine Le Pen, who had promised to take France out of NATO and end multiculturalism.
In addition, U.S. Republicans and Democrats have united in supporting Ukraine. Last month both chambers voted to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus. And last week a program to cut red tape in providing aid to Ukraine passed the Senate with a voice vote and passed the House with 200 Republican supporters.
Some of the 10 in opposition say they fear that supplying Ukraine with more weapons will push Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons. And some want to avoid another long-term war accomplishing nothing.
None praised Putin’s strength or Christian values.