Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Ukraine War Isn’t about Democracy. It’s about States Seeking More Power. | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on April 27, 2023

It is important to note that national interests do not necessarily change merely because of regime type or ideology. A liberal Russia would still have interest in securing its borders, just like the US, which would not tolerate Chinese or Russian troops being stationed in Canada or Mexico.

Zachary Yost

Writing for The Volokh Conspiracy, hosted by Reason magazine, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin argues that the war in Ukraine amounts to a clash between liberal democracy and authoritarian nationalism and that these stakes must be taken into account when continuing to support Ukraine.

Somin argues that the ideology of the winning side in a war receives a boost, pointing to the rise and then fall of fascism and communism. These examples are lacking, to say the least, and hardly prove that a wartime victory necessarily leads to the triumph of the winner’s ideology.

To begin with, Somin’s own examples of the rise of communism and fascism seem to refute his own point. The more or less liberal democratic Entente powers won the First World War, but rather than seeing liberal democracies empowered, we saw them fall to the forces of fascism and national socialism.

Alternatively, the Bolsheviks hardly had a ringing victory in the First World War. Rather, the Communists handed over vast swathes of land to the Central Powers to withdraw from the war, were then embroiled in a drawn-out and brutal civil war, and eventually had their invasion of Poland crushed by the nascent Polish state.

Undoubtedly, global communism received a boost after the establishment of the Soviet Union, but one can’t deny that this was at least partly due to the USSR’s support for communist subversives around the world.

Or take the Cold War. With the USSR’s collapse into a rusty heap, one might expect that the triumphant Western democracies would have been joined by the rest of the world based on Somin’s theory. Despite declarations of the end of history, that has hardly happened.

One merely needs to look at who is and who is not sanctioning Russia right now to see that the victorious ideology is hardly guaranteed to be swarmed by new friends eager to hop on the bandwagon.

Rather than the war’s being primarily an ideological struggle between the forces of good and evil, there is a more sensible and sound explanation for why the war is being fought, which in turn alters how one views what is at stake; that explanation is found in how states seek to advance their own interests and power, or what we might call “national interest.”

By now many readers are likely familiar with the offensive realist interpretation of the crisis, and then full blown war, in Ukraine offered by John Mearsheimer in 2014 in Foreign Affairs and later in a YouTube lecture that has since been viewed over twenty-eight million times. In short, Mearsheimer argues that the Western powers are responsible for the crisis because they ignored Russian national interests and security concerns, notably offering future North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership to both Georgia and Ukraine at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest.

Russia was outraged by this and made its displeasure known, first by verbal protestations and later by invading Georgia.

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