The Ukrainian flag is everywhere — held aloft by thousands marching in U.S. and European cities, draped from the stands at soccer matches and displayed in light designs on public buildings. Not since we saw spontaneous demonstrations of solidarity with the United States after 9/11 has there been such a unified outpouring of emotion and righteous anger around the globe. If we have been looking for something that might unify polarized, divided democracies, defending Ukraine (and by extension, freedom) from Russian shock troops might fit the bill.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday sat yards away from his advisers in his marble fortress. He seemed both unhinged and diminished, a menacing, soulless figure dwarfed by a giant table. We also witnessed the polar opposite sort of leader in the gritty, heroic Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, out on the streets of Kyiv with his people and defying pleas for his safety. (“I need ammunition, not a ride,” he replied when the United States offered to evacuate him from the besieged city.) We have the perfect distillation of good and evil. Freedom and repression. Kindness and cruelty. The authoritarians don’t look “smart” or strong; they look scared and befuddled.