AuthorAlexander, Ryan

In the last editorial note, I made the point that in order for the Global South to be a useful frame of analysis, we need to remind ourselves from time to time of exactly what it is. How do we define it? What are its strengths and weaknesses as an analytical tool? Out of what historical context did it first arise? How has it evolved over time? How does it bear on society today? I won't rehash what I wrote in that piece, except to say that one point I failed to emphasize is that it is a relative concept; the Global South exists only in relation to the Global North.

As I write this editorial note, I cannot take my mind off of developments in the Global North, especially those pertaining to Ukraine. It is beyond dispute that Russian aggression toward Ukraine, a sovereign nation that has had its share of ups and downs since the end of the Cold War, is both illegal and inhumane. It reflects Russian president Vladimir Putins personal tendencies more than it does any sound geopolitical strategy. In his view, Ukrainian nationhood is a fiction, and he is obsessed with the idea of repatriating the more than twenty million ethnic Russians living outside Russia's borders (it is important to note that while the Russian government regards this plan as repatriation, the term is something of a misnomer in this case, given that most of these people are not from Russia and seem to have little desire to move there). The personal nature of the conflict--as if it were a vendetta exacted on a mass scale--gives his tragic misadventure an extra feeling of illegitimacy.

Yet there are geopolitical implications, and they make the situation far more complex than mainstream media outlets would have you believe. If we set aside Putins irrational behavior, the Russian Federations position is at least understandable, even if the human consequences are indefensible. The humiliations felt by many Russians at their country's having been cut down to size after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the decade of hyperinflation and poverty that followed during the 1990s, the fire sale of valuable public assets to a clique of wealthy oligarchs who today live in opulence and impunity, and the instant conversion of Russia from global superpower into second-rate regional player, all took their toll not only on the nations leadership but on everyday citizens as well.

The eastward encroachment of NATO toward Russia's western flank has only further rankled. It would be unfair and simplistic to say that the West caused this situation, but it absolutely would be fair to say that the West has contributed to feelings of frustration among...

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