Americans, and especially the liberal internationalists among us, often don’t understand the passionate, burning desire that many people around the world have to see us cut down to size. In accordance with a sort-of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” principle, those people generally learn and draw inspiration from one another. For a perfect example, look no further than today’s Wall Street Journal article on how Russia’s recent actions are playing in China, where people have taken a shine to the man they dub “Putin the Great”:
Books on Mr. Putin have been flying off shelves since the crisis in Ukraine began, far outselling those on other world leaders, sales staff say. One book, “Putin Biography: He is Born for Russia,” made the list of top 10 nonfiction best sellers at the Beijing News newspaper in September.China’s fascination with Mr. Putin is more than literary, marking a shift in the post-Cold War order and in Chinese politics. After decades of mutual suspicion—and one short border conflict—Beijing and Moscow are drawing closer as they simultaneously challenge the U.S.-led security architecture that has prevailed since the Soviet collapse, diplomats and analysts say.The former rivals for leadership of the Communist world also increasingly share a brand of anti-Western nationalism that could color President Xi Jinping‘s view of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Beijing accuses Western governments of stirring unrest there, much as Mr. Putin blamed the West for the pro-democracy protests in Kiev that began late last year. […]The Pew Research Center says China is one of the few countries where popular support for Russia has risen since Moscow’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine—rising to 66% in July from 47% a year earlier.
Putin is inspiring hard liners, anti-democrats and anti-Americans everywhere, much as Mussolini inspired others with the hope that the British lion had lost its teeth. Soon Japan and Germany, much more serious powers (and, frankly, much uglier regimes) set out to follow the trail blazed by Il Duce, who invaded Ethiopia in defiance of Britain and the League of Nations.Washington has not yet found an effective way to counter Putin’s gambit in Ukraine that hasn’t been discredited by history (the British and the League tried weak sanctions and moral lectures against Italy when it attacked Ethiopia). China’s admiration for Putin points to grim times ahead for the world — the stakes in American foreign policy are getting higher by the day, but there is precious little sign that Washington has woken up to the dimensions of the problems we face.