Clear blue skies over the 10th Athens Democracy Forum could not dispel the unease. There was, for the first time, talk of possible nuclear war. Sabotaged Nord Stream gas pipelines spoke of a bitter winter to come. Inflation in Germany — a country that has never forgotten the horror that followed soaring prices in the 1920s — shot up to over 10 percent.
On the day the gathering closed, last Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed 40,000 square miles of eastern and southern Ukraine, making them part of a Russian “motherland” he says he will defend with all means at his disposal.
The world’s democracies will be tested in standing up to Mr. Putin’s threats and his contempt for international law. This was clear from sharp exchanges that suggested, as President Emmanuel Macron of France has said, that “demographically speaking” a majority of the world does not stand with the West. India and China have been reluctant to take sides on the war. Much of Africa, still smoldering over colonialism and wary of Western promises, leans toward Russia, which is a significant arms supplier to the continent.
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