What government officials are saying in public, and private, is fascinating—and full of contradictions.

Stephen M. Walt, a columnist at Foreign Policy: 

I attended the Munich Security Conference for the first time this year, so I may be a member of Washington’s so-called Blob after all. I was grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed the experience, but I can’t say that I came away from it feeling better about the current state of the world.

The war in Ukraine dominated the proceedings, of course, and there were two important dividing lines in the collective conversation.

The first gap was the vastly different perceptions, narratives, and preferred responses between the trans-Atlantic community on the one hand and key members of the global south on the other. Several important media outlets have described this gap already, and a new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations contains compelling survey data documenting it. I attended several sessions and private dinners focused on this issue, and the discussions were revealing.

Diehard Atlanticists tend to portray the war in Ukraine as the single most important geopolitical issue in the world today. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the war had “far-reaching global ramifications,” and the head of one U.S.-based think tank called it “the fulcrum of the 21st century.” Similarly, when asked how the war might end, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock replied that anything less than a complete Russian defeat and withdrawal would mean “the end of the international order and the end of international law.”

In this narrative, in short, what is at stake in Ukraine is the future of the entire rules-based order—and even the future of freedom itself. Some American and European speakers seemed to be competing to see who could give the most Churchillian speech, insisting that there was no substitute for victory, dismissing any risk of escalation, and calling for Ukraine’s supporters to give Kyiv whatever it needs to win a quick and decisive victory.

The rest of the world sees it differently. Nobody was defending Russia or President Vladimir Putin in Munich, and the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine “immediately, completely and unconditionally” passed with more than 140 votes a few days later. But states outside the trans-Atlantic coalition (including important powers such as India, Brazil, or Saudi Arabia) have not joined Western-led efforts to sanction Russia and do not see the conflict in the same apocalyptic terms that most officials in the West do. Atlanticists in Munich seemed baffled by their stance, and a few people were sharply critical. I heard another Western think tank head chide nonaligned states by saying, “This conference is not about moral ambiguity.”

 

Source: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/02/28/the-conversation-about-ukraine-is-cracking-apart/