Once upon a time not long ago, 200 countries in the world were content to coexist. Quarrels between neighbors were left for them to work out. Outside intervention came as needed and not always advisedly. But the great era of European expansionism ended with the Second World War and a new chapter in world history began.
Democracy was a province of the lucky few in the age of the Soviet Russian Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe.. All countries signed on to the Charter of the United Nations, the global forum founded to resolve conflicts through diplomacy and prevent a nuclear melt down. Yet it’s a long and winding road from agreement to implementation.
The democratic principles in the UN Charter are modeled on those in the US Constitution. The terms of the agreement are highly malleable. Implementation of laws from global to national is a convoluted politico-legal process. Loopholes abound.
The actuall state of democracy in a country depends on the chef. Russia, for example, has the makings of democracy. Russia’s Constitution guarantees rights. As head of Russia, Putin puts in place judges who rule against anyone contesting chef Putin’s will.
That porous state of democracy is the current condition in Hungary and other backsliding states in Easterrn Europe formerly in the Soviet harness. Freedom is exciting but scary when the going gets tough. Emerging economy countries like Brazil and India are split between lively democracy and the tighter rule already in place. That uncertainty wavers back and forth as democracy unfolds on a tech united world stage. The world’s poorest countries are even more bewildered. They are preoccupied with simply existing and thus are easily swayed to either hard rule or democracy.
Unlike commonly considered in everyday usage, democracy is not a monolith. Democracy has many forms. The common bond is rule by the people, not some overbearing ruler. Western Europe has the most stable form that is mediocre economically. The US has among the most chaotic forms. Its democracy is a roller coaster driver of a booming economy. But an offshoot of the economy is the social fabric of a country. There, hard rule and democracy meet over Ukraine.
The Iron Curtain fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It is doubtful that any other than Vladimir Putin and his corrupt network wanted that grim period revived. But with the mighty Russian Army at his command, Putin installed enough leaders in neighboring countries to make a comeback starting with a lunge at Ukraine. It seems also likely that America’s Donald Trump was his ticket to success.
Writers, politicians and con artists know that it takes numerous repititions with slight changes in emphasis to get a message across. In that vein, many years passed before my mother solved a mystery for me. How had Russia taken over half of Europe?
Simple, my mother said. They installed leaders and backed them with force if needed. Her wisdom prompts a train of thought.
Donald Trump first visited the former Soviet Union in 1987, when rumblings of change were in the air. With him was his Czech wife Ivana fluent in Russian. They were scouting sites to build a Trump Tower Moscow. Putin in the KGB secret service kept an eye on Trump as he came and went during the turmoil of the Russian empire collapse. Fast forward to the modern day overlap of history in the making.
Trump was a failure in business but he excelled in headlines. Among his sensations wes the famous escalator ride announcing his campaign for president. A carpet condemnation of Mexicans was part of the media event. By then, Putin had tested the waters with Obama.
Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014 when Barack Obama was president. He made off with a big chunk of his Ukraine prey without reprisal and Trump launched his campaign in 2015. Trump won the presidency in 2016, lost re-election in 2020 and Putin made a second grab for Ukraine in 2021, even as Trump kept the US off balance with charges of voter fraud as if the US was a developing country with armed guards at first-time voting booths.
Someday the story of Trump and Putin will be clear and democracy will live happily ever after. Then human good can continue developing. In the meantime, Ukraine is the whipping boy between two devious tyrants. As a complete surprise to some and no surprise to others, Ukraine is beating both tyrants at their own game.
Ukraine’s fight for democratic values has captured the world’s attention. All countries are watching, rich and poor, democratic or oppressed. The fierceness of determination to resist subjugation is inspiration for people all over the world. It moved American Biden to tighten the NATO democratic alliance for a cycling of aid as Ukraine shows a clever use of resources to bolster its courage on the battlefield and among its citizens..
.Surprisingly enough, America itself is now split over the direction of its future. The shakiness came on with lightning speed as all in America does. A few short years under Trump as Putin made his moves on Ukraine shook the whole world awake to democracy.
In a way, the story of Ukraine and democracy is that of sleeping beauty and the prince who wakes her. The roles may invert in a democratic pairing but one thing is clear.
The democratic strain in America woke the sleeping beauty in Ukraine and vice versa. The democratic strain is the prince that wakes democratic sleeping beauty.
That process is happening in Ukraine, the US and Europe and throughout the world. Once roused, sleeping beauty and the prince together wake the democratic kingdom on earth
A happy ever after is the result. It is rich with growth once pretenders to leadership are deposed. All that’s left to add to democracy as reframed by Ukraine are the words of American astronaut John Glenn. Godspeed.