Liberal democracies will prevail – eventually

The historian and political theorist on Russia’s war in Ukraine, its European shockwaves and the specter of a Trump re-election

Liberal democracies will prevail – eventually

Francis Fukuyama was perhaps the most recognized political scientist in the 1990s when he wrote his much-discussed book “The End of History and the Last Man.”

The American political philosopher who had predicted the predominance of liberal democracy after the fall of communist regimes has exercised some self-criticism, but insists on championing Western values ​​and the Western model of governance.

In his discussion with Kathimerini, the Stanford University professor says that Ukraine must continue being supported so that it can regain the momentum against Russia, while predicting that if former American president Donald Trump is re-elected in 2024, things will get very tough for Europe.

Do you do you feel that the war in Ukraine may be a long one? And what would the consequences be for Europe if that were to be the case?

Well, I think there’s conventional wisdom that it’s going to be a long war, that there will be a very frozen stalemate. I’m not sure that’s true. I think that actually the Ukrainians may have hit the low point in their fortunes. And at this point, they’re getting lots of Western weapons, a lot of training. And I think it’s possible that they could actually push the Russians out of some of the territories that they occupied early in the war. I think it’s very important that they show forward momentum because the moment things slow down, you get all these calls for a ceasefire, for negotiations, for some kind of negotiated settlement. And I think that would be a big mistake because I don’t think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will observe a ceasefire longer than it takes to rearm and start up again. So I think it’s important that the Ukrainians regain that momentum.

What is Russia’s strategic goal, in your opinion?

To this war? Well, it’s not a big mystery. I mean, Putin’s been talking about this. He really wants to reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wants to extend Russian influence back into Eastern and Central Europe. That’s his ultimate goal. He does not like the European settlement that occurred after 1991. And that ultimately is what he wants.

We keep reading all these terrifying projections about the winter ahead and sky-high energy prices. Do you think Europe can sustain itself?

Well, it’s going to be very hard. I think it depends on leaders convincing their publics that they need to go through this period of privation. And that’s why it’s important, actually, that we regain some momentum in the in the war, because if you say, well, this is going to be a situation for the next five years, that’s not politically sustainable. If you say, this winter is going to be hard but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, then I think you can get through it.

‘I don’t think that Putin will observe a ceasefire longer than it takes to rearm and start up again. So I think it’s important that the Ukrainians regain that momentum’

Would you call this new cold war with Russia a hybrid war?

You know, it’s a hot war. It’s not hybrid. It’s new in the sense that the cyber dimension of it has become very important, the information war part. And there’s lots of new technologies which the Russians have been using. But it turned out the Ukrainians can use them, too. And so that makes it a little different. It’s interesting we are seeing so much more in this war than previously. Every Russian tank that’s been destroyed – and there have been hundreds of them – has been documented and you can see it on the internet. So things are changing in that sense. But it’s not a hybrid war. It’s a hot war; it’s like World War II again.

And what about the United States? What if, for example, Donald Trump wins the next election? Should we expect a different stance in terms of foreign policy?

Well, he would be a disaster. John Bolton, his former national security adviser, said that he intended to pull out of NATO if he were re-elected in 2020, and I think he will do that if he’s elected in 2024. He likes Putin. He prefers Russia to Ukraine. So, yes, there’s going to be a huge change if he’s re-elected.

But if the Democrats win, can we expect the US to maintain its close ties to Europe within NATO?

Well, I think that almost anybody being elected other than Trump will probably retain NATO membership. You know, Trump’s biggest challenger is Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida. We don’t know what his foreign policy would be like, but I’d be very surprised if he has these hang-ups that Trump has, about, you know, the fact that the NATO allies are ungrateful, are not paying their way and so forth. So I think that NATO is safe with anybody but Trump, but there’s a real chance that Trump can get re-elected.

Do you foresee a recession in Europe and in the United States? And if so, should we expect a possible rise of populist and extremist forces that may have a political impact?

Well, of course, I think it becomes more and more likely as time goes on that we will have a recession. Whether that leads to a rise of populism, that’s dependent on a lot of other factors.

You expressed self-criticism about your famous book “The End of History and the Last Man,” in which you made a projection for the triumph of liberal democracies in the world following the collapse of communism. If you were to write a book today, what would be your sense on the future of liberal democracies around the world?

Well, first of all, I wasn’t making a prediction. I was just saying that there’s this long-term process that moves in the direction of liberal democracy. We’ve had 15 years now where that process has gone into reverse, and so obviously we’re in a very different period than in 1989 or 1991. But I think there’s still reason to think that democracy is the best system and that it’s more durable and sustainable than other kinds of systems. And I still believe that authoritarian regimes can make terrible mistakes, much worse mistakes than democracies can make. I think Ukraine is an example of that. I think the lockdown in Shanghai that the [Chinese] Communist Party engineered is another one. And so I think there’s still advantages to having an accountable government.

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