A year ago, a completely different fate was predicted for Ukraine. If that happened, what would the world be like? The worldʼs leading media about the war on February 15

Anton Semyzhenko


Ukraine is steadfastly withstanding the challenges of war, Russia is losing its influence in the world and numerous stockpiles of weapons, and NATO has become a much more powerful and promising organization than it has been in recent years. The liberal world rejoices in these victories, believing that the triumph of democracy is the natural state of things — and it is a beautiful picture, if you do not take into account the fact that it is not true, writes the professor of international relations at the American Johns Hopkins University Gal Brands in a long article on Foreign Affairs. In his essay, he dissected both the current war and previous landmark conflicts in great detail, showing that their outcome was by no means guaranteed. The First World War could have ended differently if in 1917 Germany had not decided to switch to fighting without rules at sea, which forced the United States to enter the war and help defeat Berlin. If this did not happen, even though the battles in recent years "resembled a snail race", Germany had a chance to win, because the armies of Russia, Britain and France were demoralized, and there was no shortage of problems in these countries.

Another example is the Second World War. Now the victory of the Allies is considered natural due to the fact that the human, financial and technological potential of Britain, the USA, the USSR and other countries greatly outweighed the resources of Germany or Japan. However, in 1942, it did not seem so: Berlin and Tokyo made several successful attacks, their troops acted quickly and brazenly — and this added to their success. They managed to cut several important arms supply routes between the Allies. In the end, the situation was turned by several iconic battles, which can be reduced to a few precise strikes by several air pilots. If this had not happened and if the Allies had made a few other mistakes, the situation could have gone a different way and we would now have a very different world.

The same with the Cold War. Now the democratic-liberal world is considered more effective than the command-communist one, but this perception was not always there. After all, the fact that communist regimes have been able to last so long and control so much of the world shows that dictatorships are also quite effective models of social governance.

And, ultimately, the current war between Russia and Ukraine. If we recall the forecasts of numerous, if not most, Western analysts a year ago, Kyiv was not supposed to last long. And now all of Ukraine or most of it should already be under Putinʼs control. Brands describes the consequences of such a development differently: Putinʼs regime would reach new heights of popularity at home and influence abroad. Only the Baltic states would not return to the zone of Russian influence from the post-Soviet states — but they would be under constant direct pressure from Moscow, and it would be difficult for NATO to defend them. Sweden and Finland joining the alliance could happen, but the process would not be as easy as it is now, because the alliance itself would be worried about whether it would provoke Russia. Immediately after the end of the hostilities, several European states would surely rush to resume "business as usual" with Moscow. There would be a significant strengthening of authoritarian, undemocratic forces — and further weakening of democracies.

And this can still happen, because even a weakened Russian state is capable of creating significant problems and, ultimately, pushing Ukrainian defenses, Brands writes. He gives the example of the Soviet army: bloodless, it was able to defeat the stronger Japanese forces in Manchuria in 1945. If the Russians now correct at least some of their chronic mistakes, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will face a completely different enemy. If China helps Russia with weapons, this can also change the balance of power. Therefore, the author concludes, the West should not relax, but press the situation until the complete defeat of Russia. Because the world order that we know now did not develop naturally, but thanks to the persistent defense of its freedoms and principles by the West.