ZB

Jack Tame: As the world order shifts, let’s hope it isn’t too bloody

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 26 Feb 2022, 9:51am
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Jack Tame: As the world order shifts, let’s hope it isn’t too bloody

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 26 Feb 2022, 9:51am

The World is changing before our eyes. Russian forces continue to advance into Ukraine. Residents in Kyiv are being handed guns as they prepare to try and defend their homes.

I won’t pretend for a moment to be some high-placed geopolitical analyst but in watching the events in Eastern Europe this week I’ve been taken by a few things.

1) For all the tanks and artillery, paratroopers and fighter jets, Vladimir Putin continues to use information as perhaps his important and effective weapon. The propaganda and misinformation that comes from the Kremlin makes it very difficult for anyone – Russian or otherwise – to ever know with certainty what’s true and what isn’t. For months, Putin has been insisting he isn’t preparing for war. Russian talk shows called Western governments’ warning about a looming invasion ‘hysteria’ and ‘absurd.’ When Putin appeared on TV a few nights ago and made the case for invading Ukraine, he claimed to be fighting Ukrainian neo-Nazis, despite the fact Ukraine’s president is a Jewish comedian. When the Ukrainian President made a similar address as a last-ditch effort to prevent war, he spoke in Russian, appealing directly to the Russian people.

“I know they won’t show my address on Russian TV.” He said.

“But Russian people have to see it.”

Russia dedicates resource to weaponising information abroad. Putin was able to utterly destablise parts of the American democracy by hacking emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team. We’ll never fully quantify just how many people were led astray by Russian bots spreading misinformation on Facebook in the leadup to the 2016 U.S election. But the Kremlin’s propaganda octopus has awfully long tentacles. Just this week, the highest-rating show on Fox News was echoing talking points from the Kremlin. Host Tucker Carlson, no doubt led in his messaging by his close relationship with Donald Trump, said on-air that Ukraine isn’t a “real democracy” and the conflict in Eastern Europe was a mere “border dispute.” Millions of viewers lapped it up.

2) We are witnessing in real time yet another step in America’s retreat from global dominance. I’m not saying Russia is taking its place. I’m just saying that Russia is thumbing its nose and there’s next to nothing America can do about it. Having played World Police for the last seventy years, the American public has little appetite for foreign wars. Biden has ruled out fighting with Russian troops and the Afghanistan fiasco has reminded everyone that the World’s mightiest military power perhaps isn’t so mighty after all. The threat of sanctions was insufficient to stop Vladimir Putin. And that’s it.

It also has to be said, the U.S ceded the moral high ground. There is an obvious hypocrisy in seeing American leaders rage against Russia’s invasion of a sovereign country. Vladimir Putin opposed the invasion of Iraq. If it was ok for the U.S to invade sovereign territory on the other side of the World, why can’t Russia invade its neighbour?

3) Once again we are reminded of the impotence of international organisations. Countries like New Zealand can strongly condemn and blah blah blah but it won’t do anything. The U.N is hamstrung by the Security Council’s power of veto. Russia’s biggest trading partner, China, is conspicuous in its relative silence, so far refusing to condemn the Russian invasion and likely gaming out what the international response would mean for potential similar action in Taiwan.

We are watching the World order change in real time. All we can really do is hope it isn’t too bloody.