Francis Fukuyama is best known for having mistakenly announced the coming of a global liberal quasi-utopia, billed as “the end of history,” a third of a century ago. Now, though, the American scholar has identified the linchpin of what he sees as a worldwide battle between secular good and evil.
Branding Ukraine “the frontline state in the global geopolitical struggle between democracy and authoritarianism,” the Stanford professor insists that all “liberal democracies” – essentially meaning North America, the UK, and the EU – must support Kiev against Russia.
Moscow’s aims, according to Fukuyama, go far beyond Ukraine. He speculates that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to “reverse the gains to European democracy since 1991 and create a Russian sphere of influence throughout the territory of the former Warsaw Pact.” And then there is China. Casting his glance “beyond Europe,” Fukuyama spots the “Chinese watching how the West responds, as they calculate their prospects for reincorporating Taiwan.” No wonder he feels that “global democracy” itself is at stake.
While acknowledging that Ukraine is a deeply flawed democracy, Fukuyama still predicts with characteristic confidence that its prospects in the future are so bright that they, in effect, compensate for the failures that we can observe in the present. It is ironic to find Fukuyama prophesying again. His great 1989 guess about the end of history, by which he meant the inevitable global hegemony of a specific liberal ideal of parliamentary democracy and so-called free markets, is famous for how spectacularly wrong it turned out.
But what is genuinely disturbing about his fresh intervention is that it is merely one example of a rhetorical genre that is popular among some Western public intellectuals. Its essence is to re-imagine, really fantasize, Ukraine as a crucial position in a great Manichean struggle between starkly different types of regime and often even civilization. Its effect is to supercharge the crisis between Ukraine, Russia, and the West that began in late 2013 and has just reached a new peak in the worst war scare between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.