Western values? They enthroned the monster bombarding Ukrainians today | Aditya Chakrabortty

Six days after Vladimir Putin ordered his soldiers into Ukraine, Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union Address. His focus was inevitable. “While it wouldn’t have taken something so terrible for people around the world to see what’s at stake, now everyone sees it clearly,” the US president said. “We see unity between the leaders of nations and a more unified Europe, a more unified West.”

In the countdown to the invasion, conservative President Oliver Dowden flew to Washington to address a think tank with Iirreproachable links to Donald Trump. “As Margaret Thatcher told you almost 25 years ago, the job of the Conservatives is to make the case for the West again,” the minister said. Heritage Foundation. “She refused to see the decline of the West as our inevitable fate. And neither do we.

western values. The free world. The liberal order. In the three weeks since Putin declared war on ordinary Ukrainians, these phrases have been thrown around more consistently, louder and more thoughtlessly than at any time in nearly two decades. Like me, you might have thought that such bloated language and inane categorization had been buried under the rubble of Iraq. No more. Now they slip out of the mouths of political leaders and into the columns of major newspapers and barely an eyebrow is raised. Ukrainians are fighting for “our” freedom, it is said, in that era-defining mode of grand solipsism. History is back, chirp intellectuals who otherwise happily trample attempts by blacks and browns to verify claims made for American and British history.

Holding these positions despite the facts of the very recent past requires tanks of whitewash. the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, complaints Vladimir Putin has “brought war back to Europe”, as if Yugoslavia and Kosovo had been hallucinations. Condoleezza Rice appears on Fox being told by the presenter: “When you invade a sovereign nation, it’s a war crime.” With a solemn nod, George Bush’s former secretary of state replied: “It is certainly against all principles of international law and international order. She maintains a remarkably straight face.

None of this to defend Putin’s brutality. When 55 Ukrainian children become refugees every minute and pregnant women in the hospital are bombarded in full labor, there is nothing to defend. But presenting our convictions as a binary clash of competing value systems absolves us of our own alleged war crimes, committed as recently as this century in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is to pretend that “our” wars are just and only theirs are bad, to pretend that Afghan boys who seek asylum from the Taliban are inevitably liars and cheats, while Ukrainian children fleeing Russian bombs are real refugees. It’s a giant morally repugnant lie and yet elements of it already mar our front pages and our streaming news coverage. Those television reporters marveling at the devastation of a European country, as if its coordinates on a map were what mattered, is just one example. Another is the newspapers that have spent the past 20 years cursing Eastern Europeans for having the temerity to settle here legally and now praising the British for the warmth of their heart.

And then there’s the unvarnished desire expressed by high-level pundits and thinkers that it could end in “regime change” – unseating Putin and installing someone in the Kremlin more sympathetic to the United States and the UK and certainly better trained at home. Spotting the flaw here doesn’t require history, it just requires working memory. The West has attempted regime change before in post-Communist Russia: Putin was the end product, the man Bill Clinton said he could do business with, rather than the vodka-flavored Boris Yeltsin.

Indeed, more than that, London and New York are not only guilty of harboring oligarchs – giving them visas, selling off their most valuable real estate and famous businesses – they have helped create the oligarchy by Russia. The United States and the United Kingdom funded, staffed, and applauded programs intended to “transform” the country’s economy, but which in effect returned the assets of an industrialized, commodity-rich country to a few dozens of men with close ties to the Kremlin.

In 1993, the New York Times Magazine published a profile of a Harvard economist whom he called “Dr Jeffrey Sachs, Shock Therapist”. He followed Sachs on his tour of Moscow, orchestrating the privatization of the Russian economy and declaring how high unemployment was a price to pay for a revitalized economy. Its expertise is not free, but has been funded by the governments of the United States, Sweden and other major multinational institutions. But its greatest cost was borne by the Russian people. A study in the British medical journal concluded, “Between 1992 and 2001, 2.5–3 million more Russian adults died in middle age than would have been expected based on 1991 mortality.” During this time, the country’s wealth was handed over to a small gang of men, who took whatever they could out of the country to be laundered in the United States and the United Kingdom. It was one of the grandest and deadliest thefts of modern times, overseen by Yeltsin and Putin and applauded and financed by the West.

The Western values ​​that are being touted today helped enthrone the monster that now bombards Ukrainian women and children. As corrupt and repressive as his regime was, Putin was tolerated by the West – until he became intolerable. Similarly, until last month, Roman Abramovich was perfectly suited to own Chelsea football club. Now No. 10 says he isn’t. There are no values ​​here, not even a serious strategy. Today, Boris Johnson claims that Mohammad bin Salman is a valuable friend and partner to the UK, sells it weapons to kill Yemenis and pretends not to notice those he has executed. God knows what tomorrow will bring.

Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist