Are Democracies Finally Winning?

For Antena M by: Miljan Vešović
Last week, we witnessed two momentous events that have the potential to reshape the global political and security situation.
Iran attacked Israel directly. More than 300 missiles and drones were launched from Iran’s territory. The attack was retaliation for the Israeli – sanctioned killing of the senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders in Damascus. Iranian retaliation, however, failed. Israel, helped by the U.S. but also by Arab states such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, managed to intercept more than 99% of projectiles. There were no casualties, and no damage to Israeli military or infrastructure.
Israel did retaliate for the attack, but showed maximum restraint, conducting very limited counterstrikes against Iran. As of now, there has been no Iranian military response to these strikes. It may be so because the whole Iranian operation was a failure and the fundamentalistic authoritarians in command there want to move on from the embarrassing episode as quickly as they can. Israel demonstrated its military superiority over the Islamic Republic by intercepting and destroying almost all missiles and drones.
Moreover, the international community’s attention moved from conflict in Gaza, where Israel is facing serious allegations about excessive use of force and failure to protect civilians from harm, to the fact that Israel itself was under attack by a hostile authoritarian regime. That helped Israel to restore some of its credibility, damaged by endless stream of media and social network reports about the human cost of Gaza conflict.
The good streak for democracies continued when US House of Representatives, after months of delays, adopted the national security and foreign aid package. The package envisages the continuation of military and humanitarian help to Ukraine, as well as to Israel and Taiwan. It is expected that the package will quickly (probably this week) pass the US Senate and be signed by President Biden.
The change of mind of Trump-supporting Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, was the key for adopting the package. In line with Trump’s isolationistic positions, Johnson voted against the previous Ukraine aid package. He also engineered the delay in adopting the current package, demanding tough border security measures in return.
However, after being briefed by the CIA Director that Ukraine would lose the war unless the deliveries of U.S. military equipment resumed quickly, Johnson changed his position and, with the help of Democrats, quickly pushed the aid package through the House of Representatives. Doing that, he alienated the MAGA-wing of the Republican Party (though Trump personally is still supporting him) and endangered his own position as a Speaker of the House.
Still, at least in public, he is comfortable he made the right decision. He explained that he chose to “believe the US intelligence agencies” and that the threat from Russia and other revisionist states is so grave, countering it is worth putting the speakership at risk. He also acknowledged the Balkans would be the next big target should Putin wins in Ukraine, thus confirming U.S. intelligence assessments.
The events of the last couple of weeks are a considerable setback for the authoritarian axis China-Russia-Iran. Renewed flow of U.S. military equipment means Ukraine again gets a fighting chance to halt current Russian offensive in Donbass and elsewhere. Taiwan gets an added layer of security and deterrence against possible Chinese invasion. Israel dealt a blow to Iran’s military credibility, while renewed Western support in wake of Iranian attack dashed the hopes of Iran and its proxies in the region that the West would, if not abandon, then cool significantly its relations with Israel due to events in Gaza.
However, on the information front, the revisionist states are still on the offensive. The isolationistic far right in the US and Europe continues to disseminate Putin’s talking points when it comes to Ukraine. It is highly probable that, at some point, MAGA lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene will push to remove Speaker Johnson.
When that happens, Johnson’s fate will be uncertain – several Democratic lawmakers indicated they would support him because he kept his promise to put Ukraine aid on the floor. It remains to be seen, however, whether some level of Democratic support will be enough to overcome the opposition of the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Removal of Johnson would cause further instability in US institutions as that country inches closer to one of the most bitterly contested elections in its history.
Political instability in the U.S. is always a good opportunity for its revisionist rivals to make as much mischief as they can while it lasts. It is highly probable that they won’t miss that opportunity between now and January 2025, when the winner of US Presidential Elections will be sworn in as President. As US intelligence agencies and Speaker Johnson confirmed, the Balkans is one of the places where Russia likes making mischief the most.
And while the far – right helps revisionist goals by softness on Putin and election denialism (expected if their preferred candidates don’t win in EU, U.S. and UK elections), the far left is also complicit. Currently, U.S. universities are targeted by violent pro-Palestinian protests, that often descend into virulent antisemitism. Jewish student leaders at the prestigious Ivy-League Columbia University advised Jewish students to stay at home due to their safety being threatened by protesters. Several other US universities are facing the same problem. Such protests have become a common occurrence in European capitals as well.
Naturally, the far – left narrative these protesters push is extremely biased. They talk about “occupation of Gaza” even though, before October 7th 2023 terrorist attacks, Israeli soldiers or settlers hadn’t been present in Gaza Strip for 18 years. They fail to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization. And even though the “progressive” or “far” left prides themselves to be champions of LGBTIQ+ rights and gender equality, they support the (Palestinian) regime which bans same-sex sexual activity, which criminalizes adultery and change of sex, and which is extremely lenient towards gender violence that happens very frequently.
They accuse Israel (correctly, to a degree) of intentionally isolating Gazans while failing to acknowledge that an Arab State, Egypt, shares a border with Gaza and willingly participates in that isolation. For security reasons – Egyptians know very well what happened to Lebanon and Jordan when they let Palestinians (including the militants) in, and they don’t want to share the same fate.
The thread that connects the far – right and far – left is the so – called “grievance politics”. Their main political tactics is to get votes by enabling voters to find someone to blame for their political, economic or security woes and channel their emotions toward these (real or imaginary) enemies. In the case of the far – right, these enemies are the “globalists” and “the deep state”. In the case of the far – left, the enemies are “corporations” and “Israeli lobby”.
Naturally, grievance politics is highly destabilizing, which means it is very profitable for revisionist powers. This regardless of whether the proponents of grievance politics are actually on Russian, Chinese or Iranian payroll or they are just unwitting “useful idiots”. The narrative pushed by proponents of grievance politics, from left or right, destroys institutions and corrupts values. Their main target are the elections in EU, U.S. and UK.
The results of those elections will determine whether the above-mentioned successes concerning Ukraine and Israel will really turn the tide in the ongoing struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. The failure of believers in Western values to win these elections and ascent of grievance – politics proponents to power will free the hand of Russia, China and Iran to achieve their goals – in Ukraine and elsewhere, including the Balkans.
In that case, Israeli successes against Iran and tens of billions of dollars of U.S. and European money and equipment for Ukraine would all be in vain. That is why this year’s election season is consequential not only for the countries where elections are held, but for the whole world.


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