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  • Writer's picturePeter Pomerantsev

Autocrats Are Weaponizing Globalization

Ukraine Is Where They Must Be Stopped

Wheat storage on a farm outside Lviv, Ukraine, on May 17, 2022. Diego Ibarra Sanchez—The New York Times/Redux

Sheltering from Iranian kamikaze Shahed drones in the Kyiv metro in October, I tried to hide my extreme nervousness while simultaneously scrolling through social media videos of antiregime protests in Iran, where relentlessly courageous crowds of women were ripping off their shawls in defiance of the ayatollahs who sell the Shahed drones to the Kremlin, which then uses them to attack civilians in the city of my birth.

It was a reminder of how the war in Ukraine is about fighting not only Russia, but also a whole network of authoritarian regimes. Vladimir Putin claims Russia’s invasion will usher in a new era of what he calls a “multi-polar” world, but which in practice means an era where the Russias, Chinas, and Irans of this world are increasingly free to strip away the last vestiges of human rights and humanitarian rules; where big states are ever more free to suffocate smaller ones in their “spheres of influence”; where the powerful can murder critics with impunity; where fossil-fuel dictatorships can hold the world ransom; where any hope of speaking truth to power is sunk under a deluge of disinformation; and the state can surveil your every digital footprint.

But Putin miscalculated. Instead of strengthening his authoritarian network, the invasion of Ukraine can be a rallying point for democratic solidarity. As I sat in the Kyiv metro and sighed with relief at the boom of American and Norwegian air-defense systems taking out the Shahed drones, I found myself rooting on the Iranian protests even harder.

Read the full story in Time here.


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