It’s always fun to watch big thinkers slug it out over the most pressing issues of the day. Today in one corner is renowned Indian literary critic and essayist Pankaj Mishra, arguing why so many countries prefer to sit on the fence over the war in Ukraine and why it won’t end well for the West. Opposing him is Francis Fukuyama, the influential American political scientist, predicting a triumph of the West, the total defeat of Vladimir Putin and a renewal of the “spirit of 1989”. Fukuyama says he is sticking his neck out to make several prognostications. Writing in online magazine American Purpose, here are his predictions. Russia is heading for an outright defeat. The collapse of the Russian position will be sudden and catastrophic. There will be no diplomatic solution before the war’s end. Putin will not survive his war. His defeat will discredit or at least weaken all the populists and dictatorial strongmen on the rise in recent years. Meanwhile, Fukuyama continues, China will learn that the People’s Liberation Army is not up to scratch and invading Taiwan will spell a national disaster. And, finally, “a Russian defeat will make possible a new birth of freedom, and get us out of our funk about the declining state of global democracy. The spirit of 1989 will live on, thanks to a bunch of brave Ukrainians”. Essentially, he is offering a complete satisfaction of the Western wish list on the outcomes of the war. It’s not for nothing that Sigmund Freud calls dreaming a phenomenon of wish fulfilment. US pressure on China will not stop Putin I met Mishra once in Hong Kong. He is a dark and brooding heavy intellectual. I am not surprised by his far more realistic take. He refers to Fukuyama, when he writes for Bloomberg, “Such rhetoric, usually intoned by men who lived through the heady last days of the Cold War, is dangerous. It could yet again make Western countries misread the world and their own power to shape it.” Many nations, he observes, are sitting “out the new cold war between a hastily reunited West and Russia”. The cold warriors of the West don’t understand “the transactional and shifting relationships at the heart of non-alignment”. No matter what happens in Ukraine, he predicts the following trends will intensify, “opportunistic non-alignment, de-democratisation, de-dollarisation of the international financial system and general de-Americanisation of the globe”. Who’s right? Who wins? I side with Mishra, but who do you?