Ukraine’s courage against Russia shows free world how to stand up to Putin and Xi

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As President Joe Biden returns from a successful trip to South Korea and Japan including a Quad summit in Tokyo with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and brand-new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, the Biden administration has an opportunity to expand discussions across the free world to align diplomatic efforts, defense strategies, energy security, and economic resilience.  

Those discussions should aim to forge a common understanding of what the free world should learn from the ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine because what we learn will prove foundational to the development and implementation of new policies and strategies. 

Six key lessons and their associated implications must drive the implementation of those policies and strategies because urgent and coordinated action is necessary to restore and preserve peace, promote prosperity, and build a better future.   


First, the renewed, brutal invasion of Ukraine in February revealed that many across the free world had clung to overly optimistic assumptions about the post-Cold War World, in particular that an arc of history had guaranteed the primacy of free and open democratic societies over d, authoritarian systems.  

Great power competition, they assumed, was a relic in the past. China’s Chairman Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin did not share that assumption. Beyond the misinformation, tedious doublespeak, and Orwellian reversal of the truth that ran through the joint statement that the two dictators issued on the eve of the Beijing Olympics was a clear message: they were assuming the mantle of international leadership from what they regard as divided, decaying and declining democracies.  

Ukraine's courage against Russia shows free world how to stand up to Putin and Xi

The implication of this lesson is that the Quad nations, alongside like-minded partners, must identify new ways to compete effectively against Russia and China. The only alternative is to accede to Xi’s and Putin’s vision of the future.   

Second, we have learned that ‘triangular diplomacy’ as practiced by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s in which they sought r relations with Russia and China than they enjoyed with each other is no longer feasible in a world in which the two revanchist powers vowed that the “friendship between the two States has no limits.”  

China has backed up that pre-Olympic oath with odious Wolf Warrior diplomacy designed to amplify Kremlin disinformation as well as actions to soften the financial and economic damage associated with sanctions joined by most of the free world. As much as getting China or Russia to moderate the other might appear as a nifty idea, our adversaries are coordinating joint action against the free world.  

Together, China and Russia alternate playing the roles of arsonist and fireman from Syria to Pakistan, to Northeast Asia, to within the halls of the United Nations. 

The implication is that rather than try to separate Xi and Putin, the free world should glue the two dictators together not only because they deserve one another, but also because the advantages of their partnership accrue in large measure because of their ability to cover for one another as they obfuscate, obstruct, coerce, and subvert.  

Ukraine's courage against Russia shows free world how to stand up to Putin and Xi

Third, Russian aggression and Ukrainian courage have confirmed that, while war is not the preferred means of setting differences, it may be on the only way to ensure that they are not settled for you. The implication of this lesson, paraphrased from the writings of British theologian and philosopher G.K. Chesterton, is that it is past time to strengthen collective defense across the Indo-Pacific region to restore deterrence and prepare to respond to aggression. 

The Quad and other like-minded nations should race not only to improve their own military capabilities and capacities, but also help Taiwan improve its defenses informed by what might have been done before February 23 to help Ukraine deter the renewed Russian invasion. 

Fourth, it is a grave mistake to rely on authoritarian regimes for energy. For Germany, the leap to renewables while canceling nuclear power was a leap off a cliff and into Moscow’s arms. Dependence on Russian oil and gas only moderated Germany’s initial response to Russia’s brutal re-invasion of Ukraine as Germany was forced to burn more coal and emit more carbon to keep the lights on.  

It seems clear that the United States has not yet learned this lesson as policies continue to constrain oil and gas infrastructure development while administration officials exhort authoritarian regimes such as Venezuela and Iran to export more gas and oil. The implication is that we need new policies that integrate energy security with national security as well as with efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  

Ukraine's courage against Russia shows free world how to stand up to Putin and Xi

Fifth, single points of failure in supply chains that aggressors control undermine sovereignty and impair the response to aggression. Cases in point include not only Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, but also India’s dependence on Russian arms. Xi Jinping has learned this lesson. He is pursuing a dual-circulation economy that depends little on overseas markets, finance, and technology while deepening dependence of other nations on Chinese manufacturing and upstream components and materials.  

For example, China is pursuing dominance of supply chains essential to the clean energy transition. The implication is that it is time for governments and businesses to work together and make investments to reduce the risk of supply chain disruption and maintain competitive advantages in the development and application of critical technologies. For a starter, the United States Congress could pass the COMPETES ACT of 2022.  


Finally, as the Kremlin leadership watched a well-choreographed military parade even as its poorly led, ill-trained, and undisciplined military was failing in Ukraine, and Chinese Communist Party doubled down on its self-destructive zero COVID policy, we should conclude that authoritarian regimes appear stronger than they are.  

Authoritarian regimes are brittle. Democracies are resilient. The implication is that the citizens of the Quad nations and others across the free world should be confident because they can demand better policies to compete with Russia and China. 


The courage and determination of the Ukrainian people to defend their rights might also inspire the citizens of the Quad nations and the free world to cherish the freedoms they enjoy, learn the lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and compete, confront the Xi-Putin partnership, strengthen defense, improve energy security, bolster supply chains, and restore confidence in the future of the free world.



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