The Economist chose Ukraine as the country of the year. The media outlet acknowledged that in normal times, picking the country of the year is hard. But this year, for the first time since the magazine started naming countries of the year in 2013, the choice is obvious.
"It can only be Ukraine," The Economist emphasized.
Why Ukraine was named the country of the year
Normally, The Economist chooses the country that has improved the most in the previous 12 months as its country of the year. Therefore, Ukraine is a somewhat unusual choice, because the lives of most Ukrainians have grown spectacularly worse since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Many Ukrainian cities were burnt and destroyed, and millions of people left their homes. Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by about a third. Because of Russian attacks, many Ukrainians are shivering in the dark without electricity.
Yet Ukrainians have proved themselves this year. The Economist singled out four of their qualities:
When the invasion began, most people thought Ukraine would be crushed by its much larger neighbor. Many would have understood if Ukraine’s defenders had run away. Vladimir Putin, the president of the terrorist state, also expected the Ukrainian army to fold: his troops arrived with their dress uniforms ready for a victory parade but without nearly enough food.
The Ukrainians stood and fought. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spurning Western offers to spirit him out of Kyiv, supposedly snapped that he needed "ammunition, not a ride". Ordinary Ukrainians showed similar mettle. Professors, plumbers, and pop stars flocked to enlist, swapping comfortable beds for frosty foxholes and the risk of agonizing death. In battle after battle they routed the Russians. In defending themselves against an aggressor who disputed their country’s right to exist as an independent state, they found a new sense of nationhood.
The Ukrainians spotted their enemies’ weaknesses, blew up their fuel and ammunition supplies, and quickly learned how to use new Western-supplied weapons. They made deft use of help from friendly intelligence services, especially America’s, while their enemies fought half-blind, and sometimes gave away their own positions by making phone calls on open lines.
Ukrainian military units proved to be more nimble and adaptable than the plodding, hierarchical Russians.
When there is no tap water at home, the Ukrainians melt snow. When there is no electricity, they find heat and light in cafés with diesel generators, or sleep in the offices where they work, many of which now have bomb shelters and bottled water.
"The horrors Mr Putin keeps inflicting on them do not seem to have dented their morale," The Economist wrote
Democracy and protection of neighboring countries
With a few exceptions, the Ukrainians have not answered war crimes with war crimes. Russian forces have routinely bombed civilians, tortured captives and plundered villages. By contrast, Russian prisoners-of-war are startled at how well they are treated.
"This is largely because Ukraine is not, as Putin claims, a Nazi state, but a democracy where human lives matter. It has its flaws, notably corruption, but its government and people had rejected Putinism even before the war, and now they reject it more strenuously," The Economist argues.
By standing up to Russia’s despot, Ukrainians have protected their neighbours. Had Putin conquered Ukraine, he might have attacked Moldova or Georgia next, or menaced the Baltic states. Ukraine has shown that underdogs can stand up to bullies, even enormous ones. It has thus been an inspiration not only to places with predatory neighbors, such as Taiwan, but also to oppressed people everywhere.
"Many tyrants broadcast big lies to justify their misdeeds, and impose their will through terror. Ukrainians have shown that lies can be exposed and terror can be resisted. Their struggle is far from over. But their example in 2022 was second to none. Slava Ukraini!" the media outlet concludes.
Context. Earlier, Time magazine chose President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and "the spirit of Ukraine" as the 2022 Person of the Year.