Russia's war on Ukraine once again proves the old saying: you always know where a war starts, but never where it will end. So far the war in Ukraine has only resulted in losses for Russia.
It is difficult to conceive how Vladimir Putin could keep the territories he has conquered since his debut 100 days ago. The territories he had conquered in the Donbass from 2014 could be seen as bargaining chips against the negotiation of an official return of Crimea to Russia. None of this holds anymore. Russia did engage in a war of territorial expansion based on hazy theories of Nazi threats and NATO threats. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has consolidated other possibilities for war.
1. Does the United States have any responsibility for the war in Ukraine?
The United States and its allies bear some responsibility for the conflict. They should have done more to help Russia recover after the fall of the USSR. But that might not have helped. Putin is a dictator at heart. No democratic leader would ever have embarked on the path he has followed: physical elimination of his opponents, increasing control of the media, and manipulation of institutions and the constitution to stay in power.
2. How will the war be judged?
When the war is over, it will be judged for what it is, the first conflict of the 21st century between democracies and the great dictatorial countries. In this first round, the democratic countries seem to have the upper hand. Putin overestimated his army and he underestimated its incompetence and corruption.
3. Are democracies sure to win?
The first round is not over. Democracies are worked by internal enemies who are supported by countries like China, Russia or Iran. If ever Donald Trump or one of his political clones were to take over the leadership of the United States, American democracy would be in great peril. And by extension the other democracies around the world too. The member countries of the European Union seem to be preparing for this eventuality.
4. Will democracies ever have to face China?
A second round risks pitting China against the democracies. The fault for this anticipated conflict lies with the democracies. Out of the lure of profit, they sold technologies to China that allowed it to modernize very quickly and they opened their markets to Chinese companies, without any real reciprocity. China is now the first economic power in the world in purchasing power parity and the first scientific power in terms of patents. The greatest chance of democracies is that the Chinese Communist Party is controlled by such a dictatorial leader as Mao was. This kind of leadership is very destructive for the economy and for society in general.
5. What other conflicts might democracies face?
A third round could pit them against poor and populous countries. This is because unless new solutions are found, the Earth's resources are quickly running out. Climate change threatens to drive out the populations of poor countries that have become unlivable. Could we go so far as to prevent certain countries from developing in order to limit global warming?