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The state of the liberal order is facing its biggest challenge since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ideas in Progress Newsletter

State of the Liberal Order

Following Russia’s unprovoked and now stalled invasion of Ukraine, the post-Cold War liberal order is facing serious doubts. Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and past IHS speaker, argues that we need to re-articulate the principles that define a liberal world. “The current crisis has demonstrated that we cannot take the existing liberal world order for granted,” he writes. “It is something for which we must constantly struggle, and which will disappear the moment we lower our guard.” Fukuyama stresses that as the West awakens from its post-Cold War slumber, “it will not survive unless people struggle for it and show each other mutual support.” Luckily, “contrary to Putin’s plans, Nato has emerged stronger than ever, with Finland and Sweden now thinking of joining” and “the Ukrainians, more than any other people, have shown what true bravery is,
and that the spirit of 1989 remains alive in their corner of the world.” After all, “liberalism is valued the most when people experience life in an illiberal world.”

Read Francis Fukuyama’s article in Financial Times

Responding to Fukuyama

The liberal-nationalist dichotomy is more ambiguous than people think, writes Samuel Goldman, an IHS senior fellow and associate professor of political science at George Washington University, for his column in The Week. “Start with nationalism,” he notes. “It’s certainly true that more Ukrainians are moved by a sense of cultural solidarity, shared interest, and outraged pride than by principled commitment to the liberal international order.” In this case, “like many European nationalist movements, they were first organized to resist imperial rule.” Goldman concludes that certain political classifications serve to oversimplify a more nuanced picture. “We don’t need more extensive debate about whether liberal or nationalist conceptual frames better fit the situation. We need better understanding of the specific features of these actors in this

Read Samuel Goldman’s article in The Week

Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees and Russian Immigrants

It’s past due that the United States accept more refugees, especially since over four million refugees have now fled Ukraine, writes Ilya Somin for the New York Times. Somin, a law professor at George Mason University and IHS faculty partner, reasons that in order “to ease the suffering caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion and strengthen our position against him, the United States should open its doors to both refugees fleeing from conflict and to Russians seeking to escape Mr. Putin’s tyranny.” Accepting Russian immigrants is an effective tool available to undermine such a despotic regime, Somin claims. “An open door to Russian immigrants would also be a powerful signal that we do not regard the people of Russia as our enemies — undercutting a pillar of Mr. Putin’s domestic propaganda.”

Read Ilya Somin’s guest essay for The New York Times

A Perilous Precipice

Avoiding nuclear disaster requires a careful nuclear balancing act, according to David French, a writer for The Dispatch and frequent IHS speaker. He writes that “indeed, Russia’s struggles and losses in the first two weeks of its conflict with Ukraine serve only to underscore Russia’s conventional vulnerability.” Sadly, “those same struggles may very well make Russia more likely to pull the nuclear trigger.” Balancing the need to help Ukrainians while also averting direct confrontation with Russia has been challenging for the United States, French says. But when the lines are continually blurred, punishing Russia while also evading major conflict is becoming more difficult. French observes that “it’s one thing to confront a potential conflict when both sides know they’ll lose… it’s another thing entirely to confront a potential nuclear conflict
when one side believes it can win. That’s the most dangerous confrontation of all, and we may be close to that now.”

Read David French in The Atlantic

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