The 'Messy Middle' – The New York Times


Advertisement
Newsletter
The West is arming Ukraine and punishing Russia. Today we look at the countries that aren’t.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.

If you live in most any Western country, your government’s support for Ukraine, including sending weapons and imposing sanctions on Russia, can give the impression of a united global response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
But that isn’t the case. Most of the world’s 195 countries have not shipped aid to Ukraine or joined in sanctions. A handful have actively supported Russia. Far more occupy the “messy middle,” as Carisa Nietsche of the Center for a New American Security calls it, taking neither Ukraine’s nor Russia’s side.
“We live in a bubble, here in the U.S. and Europe, where we think the very stark moral and geopolitical stakes, and framework of what we’re seeing unfolding, is a universal cause,” Barry Pavel, a senior vice president at the Atlantic Council, told me. “Actually, most of the governments of the world are not with us.”
Today’s newsletter offers a guide to some of those countries and why they have committed to their stances.
India and Israel are prominent democracies that ally with the U.S. on many issues, particularly security. But they rely on Russia for security as well and have avoided arming Ukraine or imposing sanctions on Moscow. “In both cases, the key factor isn’t ideology but national interests,” says my colleague Max Fisher, who has written about Russia’s invasion.
India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, seeking to protect itself from Pakistan and China. India joined 34 other countries in abstaining from a United Nations vote that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as you can see on the map below. And India appears to be rebuffing Western pleas to take a harder line.
Yes
No
Abstain
Russia
Canada
Britain
United States
China
Iran
Algeria
Egypt
Cuba
India
Nigeria
Brazil
Bolivia
Australia
South Africa
Yes
No
Abstain
Russia
Canada
Britain
United States
China
Iran
Algeria
Egypt
Cuba
India
Nigeria
Brazil
Bolivia
Australia
South Africa
Yes
No
Abstain
Russia
Canada
Britain
United States
China
Iran
Algeria
Egypt
Cuba
India
Nigeria
Brazil
Bolivia
Australia
South Africa
Notes: Vote took place on March 2, 2022. Some countries did not formally submit votes.
Source: United Nations
By The New York Times
Israel coordinates with Russia on Iran, its chief adversary, and in neighboring Syria (with which Russia has a strong relationship). Russian-speaking émigrés from the former Soviet Union also make up a sizable chunk of the Israeli electorate. Israel’s prime minister has avoided directly criticizing Putin, and though its government has mediated between Ukraine and Russia, little has come out of the effort.
Several Latin American, Southeast Asian and African countries have made similar choices. Bolivia, Vietnam and almost half of Africa’s 54 countries declined to support the U.N. resolution condemning Russia. Some rely on Russian military assistance, said Bruce Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Others don’t want to risk jeopardizing trade relations with China, which has parroted Russian propaganda about the war.
Those countries “might be more accurately described as disinterested,” Max says, unwilling to risk their security or economies “for the sake of a struggle that they see as mostly irrelevant.”
Some countries, citing the West’s history of imperialism and past failures to respect human rights, have justified opposing its response to Ukraine. South Africa’s president blamed NATO for Russia’s invasion, and its U.N. ambassador criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq during a debate last month about Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis.
Other countries, including some that voted to condemn Russia’s invasion, accuse the West of acting counterproductively. Brazil’s U.N. ambassador has suggested that arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia risk escalating the war.
“There’s nothing intellectually incoherent between viewing Russia’s actions as outrageous and not necessarily fully siding with the West’s reaction to it,” Jones told me.
Autocratic leaders — including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Nicaragua — may also feel threatened by Ukraine’s resistance and the West’s framing of the invasion as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, experts said. “They’re concerned that this could inspire opposition movements in their own countries,” Nietsche said.
China, with all its economic and military might, has seen the war as a chance to enhance its own geopolitical standing as a counterweight to the U.S. while still maintaining ties to Russia. The countries recently issued a joint statement proclaiming a friendship with “no limits.” But China has struggled with the delicate balancing act of honoring that commitment without fully endorsing Russia’s invasion: Beijing has denounced Western sanctions but has not appeared to have given Russia weapons or economic aid.
“China’s support for Russia, while very important, is also carefully hedged and measured,” Max says.
Four countries — North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Belarus — outright voted with Russia against the U.N. resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus is a former Soviet state whose autocratic leader asked Putin to help suppress protests in 2020 and allowed Russia to launch part of its invasion from within Belarus.
Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war on behalf of the Moscow-aligned government there, and Syria is sending fighters who may aid Russian forces in Ukraine.
It’s not unusual for countries to avoid picking sides on big global issues. Several stayed neutral during World War II; dozens sought to remain free of both U.S. and Soviet influence during the Cold War.
But if the war in Ukraine drags on, Jones said, neutral countries could come under stronger international pressure to condemn Moscow. And for countries with close ties to Russia, even neutrality can be an act of courage.
The fate of Mariupol, in the southeast, hinges on a battle at a steel factory, where Ukrainian forces are holding out.
Capturing Mariupol would create a land bridge between Russia’s stronghold in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces fired missiles at Lviv, in western Ukraine, killing at least six people. It’s part of a pattern of attacking cities even as they prepare for an offensive in the east.
In Russia, brutal crimes by soldiers are rarely investigated or acknowledged — let alone punished.
A Ukrainian village is haunted by the disappearance of five men who went to feed the cows.
The White House recommended that Americans over 60 get a second Covid booster shot. (Anyone 50 or older is eligible.)
Scientists are looking for clearer ways to explain Covid risks.
Economic data shows that China’s strict lockdowns are hurting its vast economy.
Donald Trump has transformed Mar-a-Lago’s bridal suite into a shadow G.O.P. headquarters, from which he has raised over $120 million.
It has become more deadly to be homeless in the U.S., especially for men in their 50s and 60s.
A spring storm is heading toward the Northeast, particularly New York, and may bring heavy, wet snow.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right contender to become France’s president, has proposed a ban on Muslim women wearing head scarves in public.
To win the next election, Democrats need to deliver on their promises from the last one, Senator Elizabeth Warren argues.
Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter.
Monuments: A Black contractor has become Virginia’s go-to Confederate statue remover.
The future: A.I. is mastering language. Should we trust what it says?
Soul mates: More than 50 years after Otis Redding’s death, Zelma Redding hasn’t stopped loving him.
Scene report: A casual dinner series has become one of the most coveted invitations in Los Angeles.
Quiz time: The average score on our latest news quiz was 9.3. Can you do better?
A Times classic: Actually, cats like people!
Lives Lived: Kevin Lippert began by selling reprints of classics from the trunk of his car and became what one architect called an “impresario for the culture of architecture.” He died at 63.
Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble was the nemesis of indie booksellers across America. Now, it’s important to their survival, The Times’s Elizabeth Harris reports.
Many book enthusiasts and writers used to see the chain as “strong-arming publishers and gobbling up independent stores,” Elizabeth writes. But in today’s book landscape, upended by online sales, Barnes & Noble helps readers discover new titles and publishers stay invested in distributing in physical stores, a boon for booksellers of all sizes.
“It would be a disaster if they went out of business,” a literary agent said. “There’s a real fear that without this book chain, the print business would be way off.”
Barnes & Noble’s success stemmed from offering big discounts on best sellers and an enormous variety of books. Amazon supersized that formula: Its discounts are steeper, it has a seemingly endless selection of books, and it now sells more than half the physical books in the U.S.
What’s lost in that process are the accidental finds — the books that readers pick up in a store. Such discovery in chain and indie bookstores is crucial for writers who aren’t established names. “The more Amazon’s market share grows, the less discovery there is overall, and the less new voices are going to be heard,” the founder of an independent publisher said.
Citrus-dressed salmon roasted over potatoes is a flavorful one-pan meal.
Get to know Tokischa, a gleefully raunchy Dominican rapper who has collaborated with J Balvin and Rosalía.
Jennifer Grey, the “Dirty Dancing” star, opens up about rhinoplasty gone wrong, the implosion of her career and more in a memoir.
“Saturday Night Live” featured Easter greetings from political figures and a flute solo by Lizzo.
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was chemical. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Team (five letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. A 1949 cartoon in The Times depicted Stalin as the Easter Bunny.
Here’s today’s front page.
The Daily” is about student loans. “Sway” features the playwright Tony Kushner.
Claire Moses, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.
Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Advertisement

source


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.