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A “14-month exhibition” of the value of US patronage

American hardware. Lt Steve Smith/US Navy/Getty

To all those “non-aligned” countries wondering whether to cleave to America or China in the coming years, says Janan Ganesh in the FT, the war in Ukraine is a “14-month exhibition of the advantages of US patronage”. The firmness of Washington’s will, the quality of its intelligence, the “potency of its hardware” and the depth of its alliances are plainer to see than they have been in years. Without this war, the last vivid impression that America left on the world would be the “botched exit from Afghanistan”. Now, even countries with no moral view on Ukraine can have no doubts about which superpower is on top.

And it’s not just a question of muscle. Nothing has done more to discredit the idea that strongmen have a “primal cunning” which gives them an edge over “soft-headed Westerners” than Vladimir Putin’s miscalculations in Ukraine. Nothing has done more to “stop the momentum of autocracy” that had built up before 2022. America’s duel with China is not really about what each does to the other. It is about “how well each courts third countries” – and after Ukraine, America’s appeal is surely much enhanced. To ignore that, as US isolationists urge, in favour of “nervously counting the Pentagon’s munitions inventories”, seems to lack a certain vision.