Editor's Note

by William McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor and Editor of The Catalyst

A look at how the war in Ukraine affects the cause of advancing democracy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not only ignited a brutal war, but it also has opened up a series of questions about the heightened struggle between liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes:

Is the Ukraine conflict part of a new Cold War? If so, is it the beginning or the end? How is the tension between liberalism and authoritarianism now playing out around the world? How might this war affect the Sino/Soviet relationship — and what impact might that relationship have on Western democracies? How will the invasion shape energy and agricultural markets — and, consequently, our pocketbooks? What consequences should Russia — Vladimir Putin included — face for the atrocities that have occurred in places like Bucha? And what has the United States learned so far from this war?

These are among the questions we attempt to address in this edition of The Catalyst. In these digital pages, you will find: 

  • Michael Polt, former United States Ambassador to Estonia as well as Serbia and Montenegro, presenting strategies for how the West how can build greater resiliency to fend off the resurgence of autocrats;
  • Laura Collins, Director of the Bush Institute–SMU Economic Growth Initiative, using her immigration policy expertise to address the global refugee crisis that authoritarian leaders have largely sparked;
  • A collection of young activists from around the world focusing on the importance of youth movements in upholding democratic ideals against authoritarianism;
  • David Kramer, the Bush Institute’s Bradford M. Freeman Managing Director of Global Policy, examining the United States intelligence agencies’ predictions about the Ukraine war;
  • Kenneth Hersh, the Bush Center’s President and CEO, applying principles from the business world to the European Union’s dependence upon Russian energy;
  • Bobo Lo, a Lowy Institute Sino-Soviet expert, reporting how Russia and China will remain friends, but only within limits;
  • Gary Cohn, Vice Chair of IBM and the former Director of the National Economic Council under President Donald Trump, explaining why the Ukraine war puts agricultural markets particularly at risk;
  • Natalie Gonnella-Platts, the Bush Institute’s Director of Women’s Advancement, detailing why the “breadcrumbs” authoritarians have been spreading around the world suggest Russia’s invasion is not the first shot in a new Cold War;
  • Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, the Bush Institute’s Kelly and David Pfeil Fellow, drawing upon Freedom House’s survey data to show how democracy has been in decline worldwide for 16 consecutive years;
  • Leopoldo Lopez, a one-time political prisoner in Venezuela, contending that the Ukrainian situation illustrates why free nations must counter authoritarianism’s rise, including in Latin America;
  • Chris Walsh, Deputy Director of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom and Democracy Initiative, arguing for the tenets of liberal democracy over the illiberalism that leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban use to attract some American conservatives; and
  • David Crane, Founding Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, outlining why the laws of armed conflict require that Russia, including its leader, be held accountable for this war.

Look also for an extra Catalyst  release in late June, featuring the German Marshall Fund’s Laura Thornton. She explains the key role that reliable information will play as the seesaw between liberal democracies and authoritarian governments continues to play out.

These pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bush Institute, but they do keep with our mission of being a catalyst for ideas and prompting action on pressing, relevant issues. That’s why we welcome your comments and observations. This topic, after all, lies at the heart of our world’s most urgent challenge. 

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