Fareed Zakaria Tells Don Lemon Enormous Focus on Russian Invasion is NOT ‘Because Ukrainians Are White or European’

Fareed Zakaria Tells Don Lemon Enormous Focus on Russian Invasion is NOT ‘Because Ukrainians Are White or European’

Speaking with host Don Lemon, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said that the reason the media and politicians put so much more focus on the Ukraine conflict than similar strife in other parts of the world is not cultural or racial bias, as many commentators have suggested recently.

Clips have been passed around online and found their way onto MSNBC and the Daily Show featuring reporters and commentators making observations or arguments about the significance of the Russian invasion of Ukraine which range from being inartfully put to being overtly racial or racist.

The enormous focus western governments and media have placed on the invasion is a function primarily of racist or culturally biased motives, say some pundits, arguing that Americans and Europeans care more about Ukraine than Syria, for example, because the civilian population is predominately White and European.

The reports of individual racist acts at the borders as refugees flee the invasion have not helped, despite not being directly related to the question of the media’s motives or the interest of world powers. (In fact, the media is drawing attention to the problem.)

Zakaria said, however, that the tremendous attention that is on the region is not “because Ukrainians are White or European.”

Don Lemon asked Zakaria about all of that during their discussion over the weekend, and Zakaria pushed back on the idea that a huge focus on Ukraine versus other conflicts is a product of racism.

As part of the discussion leading up to the question of racism, Zakaria noted that the concern President Joe Biden and his administration have about higher gas prices isn’t trivial or petty, but “understandable.”

“I would say I think that the American people would understand that what you have here is a superpower aggressor with nuclear weapons threatening to tear up the international order, threatening to essentially tear up the rule book, annex another country, alter borders by force,” he said. “This is all historic stuff. You know? This is stuff we will be writing about in the history books for decades to come, centuries to come.”

That prompted Lemon to ask about the focus on this particular conflict.

“I was talking to former secretary, William Cohen, who said he believes that Americans should know, people should know that we have to sacrifice in these moments because democracy, freedom, they’re all at stake right now,” said Lemon. “But there are people who say, why this conflict? There are conflicts, skirmishes all over the world, why is this one so much different? Why are we involved? Why should we upend our lives, the price of our gas, and so on? You understand what I’m saying.”

“Right. I totally understand,” answered Zakaria. “Here is the simplest way to understand it: A skirmish that takes place between two small countries in Africa or the Middle East, Latin America, they don’t threaten to up-end the international system.”

There have been countless commentaries online about this invasion of Ukraine and the conflict in Europe being the most significant military action of the new millennium, and Zakaria brought up that same concept to Lemon, invoking the Great Wars of the 20th century.

“When you have a nuclear power, the largest nuclear power in the world — Russia has more nuclear weapons than the United States — a great power with a veto in the security council, when it threatens its neighbor what you are reverting to is a pattern of great power politics that is more reminiscent of the age of Hitler and Mussolini, more reminiscent of 19th century Europe where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, that is a very different world than we’ve lived in for the last 70 years and certainly ever since the end of the Cold War,” he said.

He then bluntly and directly addressed the question that was implied by Lemon.

“So, it’s not — I mean, to put it directly to people who think about this and they say, why Ukrainians being — why do we pay so much attention, is it just because they’re white? No, it is not because Ukrainians are White or European. It’s because their aggressor, their invader is a nuclear-armed superpower,” he said. “That’s the danger.”

“If Russia can get away with this, it can get away with invading Poland, it can get away with invading the Baltic states,” he added. “China can get away with invading Taiwan. You essentially tear up the rule book of international relations.”

Lemon then asked why everyone isn’t, in that case, pushing for a more direct action against Russia, and Zakaria rightly pointed out that the fact that they are a nuclear superpower isn’t immediately an obvious good reason to engage in direct war.

“So, look, what we are trying to do is balance the very real problem that having a nuclear-armed superpower, you know, upend the international order is a huge, huge problem and should be, you know, there should be some very heavy price to pay,” he said. “We’re trying to, frankly, ensure that we don’t have a nuclear war.”

Not to editorialize or take sides in the debate, but avoiding nuclear war does seem like a good thing.

Watch the clip above, via CNN.

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