The tension between global norms and national interests

Fareed Zakaria

By Fareed Zakaria/The Washington Post

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unified Western democracies, at least in their robust condemnation of the action. But farther afield, one sees a variety of responses that foreshadow the great emerging tension in 21st-century international life: between global norms and national interests.

Consider the response of India, the world’s most populous democracy. New Delhi was mostly silent through the events of February and early March; it refused to support any sanctions against Russia, and its national security adviser declared that Russia had “legitimate” interests in Ukraine — all of which led Vladimir Putin to place a thank-you phone call to India’s prime minister.

India’s reaction can be explained by its deep ties with Russia. From 2009 to 2013, 38 percent of major weapons exported from Russia went to India, far more than to any other country (and more than triple the next-highest recipient, China, at 12…

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