Reviews | Putin made sure the world would never be the same again

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Musician and actress Selena Gomez has twice as many Instagram followers – more than 298 million – as Russia has citizens. Yes, Vladimir, I can hear you laughing from here and echoing Stalin’s quip about the pope: “How many divisions does Selena Gomez have?”

She does not have any. But she’s an influencer with a following, and there are thousands and thousands of Selenas on the World Wide Web, including Russian celebrities posting their opposition to the war on Instagram. And while they can’t roll back your tanks, they can roll all the western leaders at the top the red carpet for you, so you and your buddies can never travel to their country. You are now officially a global outcast. Hope you like Chinese and North Korean food.

For all these reasons, at this early stage, I will only venture one prediction about Putin: Vladimir, the first day of this war was the best day of the rest of your life. I have no doubt that in the short term your army will prevail, but in the long term leaders who try to bury the future with the past do not fare well. In the long run, your name will live in infamy.

I know, I know, Vladimir, you don’t care – any more than you care that you started this war in the middle of a raging pandemic. And I have to admit that’s the scariest thing about this World War Wired. The long term may be far away and the rest of us are not immune to your madness. In other words, I wish I could blithely predict that Ukraine will be Putin’s Waterloo – and his alone. But I can’t, because in our wired world, what happens in Waterloo doesn’t stay in Waterloo.

Indeed, if you ask me what is the most dangerous aspect of the world today, I would say it is the fact that Putin has more unchecked power than any other Russian leader since Stalin. And Xi has more unchecked power than any Chinese leader since Mao. But in Stalin’s day, his excesses were largely confined to Russia and the border regions he controlled. And in Mao’s time, China was so isolated, its excesses only affected the Chinese people.

Not anymore – today’s world rests on two simultaneous extremes: never have the leaders of two of the three most powerful nuclear nations – Putin and Xi – had more unchecked power and never have more people on one end halfway around the world have been wired with fewer and fewer buffers. So what these two leaders decide to do with their unchecked power will affect virtually all of us directly or indirectly.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is our first real insight into the madness and instability of this type of wired world. It won’t be our last.


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