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International relations

Don’t give poor countries a pass on Putin

A pro-Russia rally in Mali last month. Ousmane Makveli/AFP/Getty

“Rich-world liberals” have always given the “global south” – what used to be known as the third world – the moral benefit of the doubt, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. But it’s hard to square that with how the Ukraine war has been viewed outside the West. Russia retains a net positive reputation in Egypt, Vietnam and India; there have been pro-Moscow protests in west and central Africa. In March, Ukraine recalled its ambassador in Morocco, “another staple of the gap-year trail”, because of the country’s lack of support against the invasion.

All this is “well within the prerogative” of sovereign states. Russia is a “valuable patron” to many of them, after all. But the West should respond by shedding its “sentimental illusions” about such places. Going on so-called “challenging” holidays, or dabbling in “half-understood Eastern fads”, is largely harmless – but the “soft racism” of holding non-white nations to a lower moral standard isn’t. “I cannot be alone in knowing someone who boycotted the US during the Trump years while visiting semi-democracies and gay-criminalising kingdoms with a cloudless conscience.” It’s easy to demand France and Germany do more for Ukraine. It’s bolder to suggest that poorer nations are being “selective in their opposition to imperialism” by also dragging their feet. But ditching our “infantilisation” of them would be the truest form of egalitarianism.