A lot of fuss has been made over Vladimir Putin’s remarks about the decline of liberalism, especially of liberal internationalism. Much of the response has been negative. It seems to draw on the old canard that Putin is a bad person, and whatever he says is therefore necessarily bad. 

In a recent interview with The Financial Times Putin referred to the breakdown of the international rules-based order and suggested that liberalism may have “outlived its purpose”. There followed rather quick criticisms of Putin, which reminded me of the response, more than 25 years ago, by some of SA’s more established journalists in the parliamentary press gallery, where I was based at the time, to a statement by then Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. He suggested that the role of the World Bank and IMF needed to be re-evaluated. Most of my colleagues were outraged. How dare Mugabe cast aspersions on cornerstone institutions of global governance?

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