26 March 2022

The struggle between autocracy and democracy is “the defining challenge of our time”, President Joe Biden said in December at a virtual “Summit for Democracy”. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine offers evidence he was right. With missiles and tanks, an autocrat is trying to snuff out a freely elected government.

Yet the result of the war is unpredictable, and so too will be its effect on global democracy. If Mr Putin achieves something resembling a victory, that could inspire strongmen everywhere. If he loses, that could inspire those who stand up to them. When Mr Biden reconvenes his democracy summit later this year, much will depend on the courage of Ukrainians, and the support they receive from democracies, with all their flaws.