“Russians will ‘see our faces, not our backs.’”
– Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
About five years ago while I was preparing for a speech, one of the other speakers approached me, an historian who studied the large, Hegelian dialectics of history — the swings from extremes. Jointly worried about what was then a 10- and now 15-year decline of democracies around the world, she explained that historically, the only way that there has been a turn-around and a return to more normalized times is through extremes — deprivations such as a great depression, plague or a catastrophic, nearly world-wide war. Are we at that moment? When the clarity of evil is so clear and the fear of escalation so great that we are at that instant when unification seems possible?
This is our Cuban Missile Crisis on steroids. Suddenly, nothing else seems as important.
In mere weeks, NATO has become stronger than ever and has recovered all that it lost and more during the America First years. Germany and Sweden have acted instantly and aggressively in ways no past events have inspired them to do, regardless of how much U.S. presidents of both parties pleaded. The historically neutral Swiss have joined EU sanctions. The list of courageous cooperation is near-endless as we witness the power of unified democracies. We are entering a new world of post-Cold War alliances and it may be the silver lining of this tragedy. The start of an Age of Enlightenment?
While war, even nuclear war, is still on the table, we are seeing the power of peaceful sanctions, real-time transparent intelligence, sophisticated cyber defense and isolation.
In Ukraine, a lawyer-turned-actor-turned-comedian-turned-president has moved NATO and the world to action and tears, inspired by a courage not seen since “Tank Man” stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989. It is clear that Russia’s invasion is not just a threat to Ukraine but a proxy for the war on democracy. This is, as New York Times bestselling author Frank Bruni pointed out, a moment for us to ask, “Do the times make the man, or does the man make the times?” Either way, this is a moment for all of us to follow the lead of courage and determination.
Over the weekend and early this week, we recorded five shows on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal on the Ukrainian crisis.