February 25, 2022

We Must be Unequivocal in Our Defense of Democracy

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

As you know, ACS’s 2022 annual theme is Democracy’s Moment of Truth. There could be no starker example of this moment of truth, of the struggle between democracy and autocracy, than Russia’s unjustified, unprovoked, and targeted attack on Ukraine’s democratically elected government. I know many of you, like me, are glued to your TV and phone as we try to reckon with the implications of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, on the Ukrainian people, and on geopolitics. How this unfolds will have ripple effects across the globe, both in the short and long term.

We know other autocracies are taking note. As Freedom House has reported, democracy is in decline across the globe. Autocrats are encouraged by the trend and see an opportunity to accelerate the decline. This is why Putin’s war is about so much more than Ukraine. This war is an attempt to destabilize Europe and to bring the region to heel. It is, as President Biden explained, about the battle between autocracy and democracy, between sovereignty and subjugation.

The repercussions of this war could be enormous. Russia is a nuclear power. It has one of the largest military forces in the world and is one of the five veto powers in the UN Security Council. As such, Russia’s actions have a disproportionate impact on global affairs, politically and economically.

Russia’s actions are in flagrant violation of international law, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations. Russia, and Putin specifically, must be held accountable, less they achieve their goal of occupying Ukraine and establishing a modern precedent for a global superpower to overthrow democracy.

I spent many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Throughout my tenure there, Senators were united in the importance of supporting democracy and the rule of law at home and abroad. It is deeply troubling to see U.S. defense of democracy become partisan in corners of our country. I hope you will join me in seeing this not as partisan, but as an urgent call to stand in solidarity with democracies across the globe.

We are living through democracy’s moment of truth, at home and abroad. I am deeply concerned about how far Putin will take his war of aggression. I do not know what will come next. What I do know is that we must be unequivocal in our defense of democracy, for the rule of law, and for the sovereignty of democratically-elected governments.