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Michael Ignatieff still believes in liberalism—Former Liberal leader discusses loss, the trucker protests, and Ukraine’s struggle for freedom

Podcast & Video

This episode of Hub Dialogues features host Sean Speer in conversation with author, thinker, and former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Michael Ignatieff on his thoughtful new book, On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times. They discuss dealing with loss and failure and the importance of consolation, liberalism and its challenges, alienation and the trucker protests, and Ukraine’s struggle for freedom and democracy against Russia.

You can listen to this episode of Hub Dialogues on Acast, Amazon, Apple, Google, Spotify, or YouTube. A transcript of the episode is available below.

Transcripts of our podcast episodes are not fully edited for grammar or spelling.

SEAN SPEER: Welcome to Hub Dialogues. I’m your host, Sean Speer, editor-at-large at The Hub. I’m honoured to be joined today by Michael Ignatieff, a renowned author, thinker, and historian, as well as, of course, the former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He’s the author of the fascinating new book On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times. Thank you for joining us, Michael, and congratulations on the book. 

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: It’s good to be here, Sean. 

SEAN SPEER: The book tackles the difficult subject of loss, failure, and suffering, which as you’ve written is “built into the very fabric of human existence.” Yet you argue that as we drifted from traditional sources of wisdom such as religion, we’ve struggled to deal with these experiences. How has the language of consolation vanished from modern vocabulary? And what are its consequences?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Boy, you don’t start with little questions, do you? That’s a big one. I think that we have lost quite a lot in losing our contact with religious language’s consolation. Some of the greatest and most consoling words ever written are in the Bible, particularly the Psalms. And I’m not religious, Sean. I don’t attend church; my father was religious, my brother is religious, but I’m not. So, I’m not trying to bring anybody back to Jesus or Muhammad or Yahweh. But I do think that secular people, people who live without God, are foolish not to turn back to some of the great religious languages of consolation because they’re just so beautiful. And because, in particular, they’re so psychologically realistic. 

I mean, you read the Psalms, you know, the psalmists knew what desperation was; they knew what loneliness was; they knew what loss was; they knew what fear was. And so, when you read them, you’re in contact with minds just like your own struggling with the same thing. Consolation is really getting that sense of continuity, that sense of solidarity across time, and breaking out of your solitude. I mean, the worst and the hardest things about suffering and loss and grief is that you feel you’re going through it alone. I’ve written this book just to show people that there are just so many resources, partly religious, partly secular, that you can turn to when you go through these experiences.

To get to your original question, I’m trying to bring back the idea of consolation because it’s kind of dropped out of our language a bit. The religious language is a consolation. We used consolation all the time; Roman stoics used it all the time. But now we tend to think of failure, grief, or loss as an occasion for therapy, and so the language that’s replaced consolation is really the language of therapy. 

I don’t want anybody to believe I don’t think therapy is a good thing, I’ve used had some therapy myself, but I think there are some experiences like grief where therapy doesn’t exactly capture it. You know, if you’re grieving, you’re not ill. You’re just deeply sad at the loss of somebody you cared about. That’s not something you can be cured of. You can’t talk yourself through it. You need to experience it full force and find some way to console yourself for what you’ve lost. And consolation here means finding some meaning that allows you to go on, and that’s what we do all our lives. We find meaning so that we can surmount experiences that are painful and difficult.

SEAN SPEER: You mentioned, Michael, the importance of people in relationships in those moments of suffering and loss and that’s a key idea in the book—that ultimately, it’s people and relationships that help us overcome loss and grief. Yet there’s some evidence that we’re lonelier these days. The economist Arthur Brooks, for instance, has written of something of a loneliness epidemic. What do you think is behind the rise of loneliness? And to what extent has it contributed to the decline of consolation?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Well, I think a tremendous number of people are, for example, marrying late, and therefore living alone before they have the happiness of marriage. Many marriages are breaking up, so there’s a tremendous increase in divorce. There are some people who never find another’s company. It’s one of the darker sides of something that I think’s very positive, which is the gay revolution, for example—it’s possible for men and women to be with partners of the same sex. That’s been a fantastic advance, but it hasn’t brought with it what you’d hoped for, which is that everybody finds a partner so no one’s alone. 

There’s a tremendous amount of loneliness, and then at the end of life, I think a lot of people are living longer. But when they lose their partners, they’ve got a long time at the end of life when they’re on their own, and widows and widowers suffer greatly from loneliness. So, I think there’s a lot about the modern family that is not in great shape, and it results in the loneliness that Arthur Brooks and others have talked about. 

I think that another aspect of loneliness is the churches aren’t as full, synagogues aren’t as full, mosques and temples aren’t as full. The community organizations are not as busy as they used to be, and so we’re spending a lot of time alone, and we’re spending a lot of time online, kind of alone with ourselves and with a digital world and the digital world is no substitute for the real world. I would prefer, Sean, to be sitting in a room with you. I’m in Vienna, you’re in Toronto, or somewhere. And that’s a lonely experience, that digital experience, and I think you put all of that together, and I think that it means that we’re consoling ourselves alone. That’s often the most difficult thing. Because what we really want is just the company of someone else and we can’t have it. 

So, we console ourselves, and then the problem with consoling yourself is telling yourself the truth. Our capacity to tell the truth about our own lives is very, very limited. I’ve lived a lot of my life in a certain kind of fantasy about what kind of guy I was and a sort of set of hopes that were fantastic beyond my capabilities or abilities. When you console yourself truthfully, you have to face some very painful realities about your limitations and the ways you come up short, and the ways you are not true to what you want it to be, etc., etc., etc. Standard stuff. Life is a lifelong experience of struggling for truth, and true consolation is an encounter with truth, but those encounters are painful.

SEAN SPEER: I mentioned Arthur Brooks. If I can refer to another Brooks: David Brooks. He often says that while loss breaks some people, it can break others open to discover there’s more to them than they previously understood. As you carried out this project based on your thinking and writing on the subject, do you have any advice for viewers and listeners on how to ensure that loss, failure, and suffering don’t break us and instead enrich our lives in some way?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Well, I just think two things. One, this is when you discover you really do need other people. I mean, I’ve had some painful experiences in my life, but I, fortunately, married the right woman, and it’s just as simple as that. You know, being with her, feeling the comfort of her presence, feeling the sharpness of her criticisms of me, has kind of helped me to go through some things. So, failure, loss, and grief are moments when you suddenly discover whether your social relations are what you’d like them to be. And if they aren’t, then it really can break you, you just come apart. You come apart in loneliness; you just feel there’s nobody that cares about what I’m going through. Nobody understands when I can’t reach out to anybody. That’s a terrible situation to be in and it forces you back to find consolation in yourself, and we do it, we can find consolation ourselves. 

You come to an acceptance of painful realities. You’ve come to accept that your mum and dad or your beloved or sister or brothers just died on you, and you come to accept. You come to find meaning in it. You come to realize that you love them dearly, and you care about them, and you’ll carry their memory. Oh, that’s a very consoling thought, the idea that people have not actually utterly died, they’re still in your memory. You can console yourself through remembering, through honouring, through doing something in their honour. 

If you’ve lost someone, if you fail at something, you have to look yourself in the mirror and cut the excuses, cut—excuse my language—the bullshit, and just face up and take responsibility. Taking responsibility for failure is extremely hard. It’s always easier to blame someone else, but eventually, you got to look at yourself and say, “Yeah, that was on me that one,” you know. And then you work out what it was that you failed at, why it was that you failed, and you kind of work that through. The objective here of this process of consolation is to come out thinking, “Well, I’m not completely useless. I can get back on the horse and ride.” 

But this is tough stuff, and my book is just full of examples of people failing, and facing failure and loss and grief, and finding a way to understand it better. I found the process of writing the book kind of inspiring because there are some wonderful stories in the past, and I’ve tried to collect a few. It’s not a history of this, because there’s just too much to cover, but I’ve picked eighteen essays where someone faces a moment of terrible crisis and rises to the occasion, and that’s what we have to do, we have to rise to the occasion.

SEAN SPEER: Well, it’s a profound book that I know our listeners and viewers will certainly benefit from. I’m grateful to talk to you about it.

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to shift the subject to the question of liberalism for which you are a leading thinker and advocate. What did Isaiah Berlin get right about liberalism? And what would he think today about the increasing challenges to liberal ideas and institutions around the world?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: I think what he got right is that a liberal puts freedom first, puts freedom ahead of equality, puts freedom ahead of solidarity. This differentiates us from social democrats and socialists. We think solidarity is great, but we think freedom matters more. It sets us against conservatives because we are less respectful of tradition and the past. We think that freedom means change, and freedom means trying to move forward. Freedom is a very, very tough thing to put first, though. It means you have to listen to a lot of opinions you don’t like, you have to live with people whose vision of freedom and vision of how they live is not your vision. 

Next to freedom is tolerance in the positive sense of the word of thinking that what is wonderful about human beings is that they’re very individual, they’re very particular. A liberal thinks the world is made up not of races, genders, classes. It’s made up of individuals. And human beings matter. They matter one by one. And that means you don’t—whenever you do public policy if it has a negative impact on one person, that’s an issue. 

We care about freedom, and that then means we have a whole set of views about the economy. We’re not enamored about capitalism; we think capitalism needs to be controlled, because it’s a beast and it needs to be kept in a cage, and it’s a cage or regulation. But we believe, tremendously, in a world of private property, and we like success in capitalism, and we want the profit motive to work and we want to keep the beast in the cage so it doesn’t harm the most vulnerable.

I think there are some new themes that have emerged in liberalism that we’ve been slow—and another thing we think: we don’t believe in big government, we believe in limited government. That is, we believe in majority rule. We’re passionate democrats, balanced by minority rights and rule of law and free institutions and debate. We believe that freedom is best protected by a whole, very particular structure of liberal democracy. So, we are against populism, we don’t like majority rule, unlimited. We think there are risks of the tyranny of the majority and authoritarianism. We think that democracy is frequently used by authoritarians to basically ride roughshod over the rights of individuals. So, there’s that piece of it. 

Then I think there are two other pieces that I think are important. One of them is a liberal doesn’t think their obligations stop at the border of their country. A liberal thinks there are a lot of other people out there, and it’s absolutely right to put our first moral priority on our fellow citizens, those who are nearest and dearest. But we have obligations in the world and part of the Canadian liberal tradition I’m proudest of, as you know, was Mike Pearson—one of the great internationalists of the 20th century. And I’m a Mike Pearson liberal, preserved in aspic, I may be the last one left standing. But that internationalism is a fantastic achievement in Canada and a great thing. 

The second aspect of internationalism, which I think has come into salience in my lifetime, has been the environment. The biggest challenge for liberalism, in a sense, is that the space of politics is no longer the nation or the state: it’s the biosphere. And this is the most international dimension of what we do and where our responsibilities suddenly are coming home to us in a big way. The green challenge is an enormous challenge to liberalism because we believe in gradualism. We believe that big changes happen with little gradual steps: recycling, prices on carbon, little stuff, and almost everybody now is thinking that’s too slow, “It’s a crisis; the world’s coming to an end; climate change is out of control.” And a liberal thinks, “No, it’s not right. You need to use market mechanisms, gradual steps, small steps, and we will get there and it will be scary because we’re not absolutely sure we can.” But the climate challenge is an enormous test of liberal gradualism. But I don’t think there’s any other kind because this is a democracy. 

You know, this is the Canadian aspect of this. You can’t walk around saying, “Well forget about Alberta, forget about Saskatchewan.” You can’t because they’re citizens, they’re our fellow citizens. So, you got to get a climate policy that doesn’t simply wipe out a part of the country. Conversely, you can’t make environmental change that ignores the needs of our Aboriginal fellow citizens. The great strength of liberalism is this instinct: you’ve got to sit down and talk. 

The passionate commitment to freedom on the one hand, democracy on the other means you haven’t got any choice. You’ve got to sit down in Alberta, you got to sit down with Aboriginal peoples, you got to understand that we’ve got, you know, parts of the country that consume energy, parts of the country produce energy, parts of the country get their energy from hydro, parts of the country get it from hydrocarbons. So, that adds a final dimension to what I think makes liberalism very particularly suited to Canada, which is you got to keep the show on the road. 

National unity is the frame within which all liberal politics has to operate, and we’ve been doing it for 150 years. The final thing about liberalism is that liberalism is not a universal creed. Canadian liberalism is different than American liberalism, than French liberalism, than British liberalism. That Canadian quality to any liberalism that I’m fond of, is central. The national character of liberalism always needs to be emphasized, which means also that Canadians are patriots, and a liberal is a patriot, because this is the frame in which we do the work of our life. We are attached to the frame in which we do our lives. 

SEAN SPEER: That’s a fascinating set of propositions that speak to the strengths of liberalism in general and as you say, a Canadian liberalism in particular. Let me ask you about one of its potential weaknesses. To what extent, Michael, is the current unrest in Western societies due to the fact that liberalism and the relative stability that it provides is boring? 

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Yeah, I think that’s possible. Our societies love excitement, love communal collective excitements. The Trump phenomenon was a phenomenon of a kind of collective excitement and it seemed thrilling where it was against these liberal East Coast elites, “We stand for something, they stand for nothing.” It’s so exciting. I don’t think the problem with the crisis of Western society though is a problem of boredom. It is a crisis actually of inequality. On the one hand, that is, liberal societies have not delivered to lots of people, problem number one. 

Problem number two: we’re facing a challenge we’ve not really faced before in the history of liberalism, which is the climate crisis. So, there’s a doubt addressed to our vision of the future. A liberal believes in change, and a liberal believes in progress, and a liberal believes in science, and a liberal believes in technology. A lot of people are saying “That’s the problem, right? Your solution to this is the problem.” There’s been a huge revolt against expertise, science, technology, all this stuff, a revolt against capitalism. A liberal believes, “If you don’t have a price system, you can’t do anything about climate. If you don’t do investments in science and technology that get us green energy, fast, you can’t do anything.” So, I feel that climate change is an opportunity for liberalism to prove that it’s right about how social change is affected in a democratic society. 

These are the problems of inequality, the sense that lots of people have been left out, and these big historic changes that we’re facing. I don’t think there’s nothing boring, for example, about the fact that we’re in a war over the future of a democratic country. And this has I hope, woken every liberal up around the world to the fact that this system of liberal democracy is fragile, it’s vulnerable. It faces world historical competition from rising China and Russia. And we better know what the hell we believe and what the hell we’re prepared to defend. I’ve never felt more convinced about liberal values in my life. If you’ve needed a little refresher on how and boring liberal democracy is, just listened to Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

SEAN SPEER: I’ll come to Ukraine in a minute, Michael. But just one more general question about liberalism. It’s often observed that growing cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity is a strength for countries like Canada. That the interplay of different cultures and ideas contribute to dynamism and energy, and so forth. But as our societies become more diverse, how do we maintain a connective tissue of common identity and purpose among citizens? In other words, how can we draw on the benefits of diversity without the cost of attenuation?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: I think there’s a real problem there. You know, when I was in politics, one of the glories of being politics was that I could spend a morning in a Sikh temple, and an evening in a synagogue and then I go up to an Inuit community in the north. The great thing about politics was literally going into the separate communities to make up the country, but most Canadians don’t. And we are very, very highly segmented by race and ethnicity, and by region. Liberalism welcomes pluralism, but it’s not clear that we are communicating to each other very well. 

The Canadian problem is that we’ve decided the solution to this problem is to be very, very nice, and avoid saying anything that stirs anybody up. There’s a tremendous amount of kind of hypocrisy suppressing a great deal of resentment towards Aboriginal peoples, for example. There’s a, I think, furious resentment at the refusal of Aboriginal Canadians to accept the majority story of how the country is formed and what we are. These things we have to do. Sometimes being nice and avoiding problems is all you can do. But we have to do a much better job, a much more active job as liberals of saying, “Let’s have some difficult conversations,” and the conversations can’t be avoided. It’s not enough. 

We’ve just had truckers up on Ottawa, up on the Hill in Ottawa, who felt—this is not to justify anything that they did—but who’s bitter feeling was that they weren’t listened to, weren’t respected as the professionals, who bring us our dinner, basically, and it was time that they were heard. That’s an example where eventually this stuff just goes boom, right through the political system. Then liberal democracies have to have difficult conversations. Why the hell did we get to a situation in which hard working men and women in Canada felt so alienated that they had to shut down the capital of our country for three weeks? How do we get here? That doesn’t excuse what they did; I felt that police action had to be taken to clear the thing, but, boy, it’s an indictment of the failure of liberal democracy. 

That’s how liberal democracy works. You know, Aboriginal people then mount a blockade, and we have to respond to that, and truckers, and that’s how it goes. A lot of people don’t like that about liberal democracy: they want to quiet life. They want to, you know, “why can’t we all get on?” Well, the core of a democratic society is contention, argument, debate, and our job is just to keep it from being violent. For the most part, the truckers kept it on the right side of violence, but there were some people there who didn’t want to keep it the right side of balance. 

A liberal democracy must be absolutely clear, even ruthless, about the question of violence. We’re going to have pluralism, we have to obey. We have disagreeing, we can shout at each other, but you raise a hand against a fellow citizen in a political argument, and that’s the end of it, right? We’ve got to be very tough. Liberalism is not a warm bath, and liberal democracy is not a kind of sauna in which we all sit together. It’s an argument, and our job is, if we are in politics or in media or anywhere, is to keep it civil.

SEAN SPEER: On that point about the role of polarization, partisanship and so on, in the 2011 federal election campaign you were asked about the policy promises of your opponents and you said that you supported the Conservative Party’s proposal to create an office of religious freedom. In particular, you said, “We think an initiative like this is the kind of thing that ought to have support of all sides in politics.” More than a decade later, it seems unlikely a political leader would say this about his or her opponents’ ideas. Why do you think that’s happened? Why have we become more partisan and more polarized?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Well, I think I was bit of a sap to be so non-partisan at the time. I was subjected to the most unprecedented attack on my personality and my life, you know, highly-funded, highly-structured, “He’s just visiting, he didn’t come back for you,” all that stuff. So, I didn’t get anything. I didn’t get much back for all these bipartisan displays. But I actually am unrepentant about supporting things that promote religious freedom simply because there are just so many places in the world where religious freedom is under attack, and it’s an appropriate thing for a freedom-loving country to want to protect and endorse and enhance. Even though religious freedom is a kind of is code for a kind of conservative cause, I don’t see why it should be. It can be a liberal cause as well. So, that’s right. 

And I supported the Harper budget in 2009—much, much more important, because I thought in a moment where output was falling off a cliff, and we were in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the depression. It was not the time to bring the government down. It was not the time. It was the time to try and find some way to get us through. I think the Liberal Party under my leadership forced the government to create the largest stimulus package up to that point in Canadian history. It didn’t do us any good politically, but I think it was good for the country, and I’m in a kind of quiet way proud of that. 

I think there really are moments when you just got to put the country first, and I think we’re seeing this again over Ukraine. I think Ukraine—in the United States it’s still partisan clamor, in every other country is still a partisan clamor, because there are some threats that we all feel equally whatever our partisan affiliation, and thank God we do. And it would be awful if Ukraine became a partisan matter or some existential threat to liberal democracy became a partisan matter.

SEAN SPEER: If I may, Michael, wrap up on with a few questions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. You’ve dismissed the claim that Russia’s invasion was in response to NATO’s eastward expansion as “nonsense.” What do you think was behind it?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: What was behind Putin, I think, is a messianic desire by an autocratic leader who has lost touch with his people and their aspirations; a messianic desire to recreate not the Soviet Union, but to recreate the Russian Empire. And it is based on a very highly elaborated denial of the very existence of Ukraine as a separate people, a nation and culture and state. So, it’s based on a falsehood, and it amounts to a denial of the legitimate rights of self-determination of people with whom Canadians have a particularly strong connection. I mean, we’ve got a lot of Ukrainians in our country, and they are passionate on this subject and right to be passionate on this, and we need to be absolutely with them on there. We did not, in other words, create this crisis. 

The idea that eastward expansion of NATO created the crisis is false for one very important reason, which is that Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria said perfectly clearly, “We cannot have a democracy next door to Russia unless we have a NATO security guarantee.” The idea that we pushed NATO on them denies them agency. This is the thing and it ends up creating this kind of fantastic idea that America is responsible for everything that is both good and bad in the world. Ridiculous. It denies the agency of these Eastern European states who said their democracy was connected to their security. I mean, and imagine where we’d be now on March, whatever it is, if NATO wasn’t at the Polish-Ukrainian border? Putin would be heading towards Vienna where I’m talking to you. I mean, this is an argument that ought to be over now, in my view. 

And it’s not, let me be clear, it’s not that the United States did not make mistakes. The United States made some serious mistakes. They made loose promises to Ukraine, they said, “Oh, sure, sometime come on in.” No, you don’t do that with a country next to Russia. You don’t bait the bear that way. That’s stupid. You don’t say to Georgia in 2008, “Oh, come on, and you can join.” You put them on a path towards integration with Europe, but you don’t make specific promises that you have no intention of carrying out. That was a mistake; that I agree with. 

But the idea of having a NATO border on the border with Russia seems to be essential to the security of millions of people. Just ask the people in the Baltics; we’ve got a lot of Baltic Canadians, and they know it. I mean, if you’re up in Estonia next door to Russia, if you’re not a member of NATO, you have no possibility of consolidating your democracy at all. That’s why it’s a great thing that Canada’s got some troops up there in Latvia showing our commitment to the Baltics. The Baltics paid a horrendous human price for Soviet occupation, and they want to be free. This is the kind of stuff Canada should just be four hundred percent in favour of. I don’t want to go to war with anybody, but we got to stand there and say, “Don’t even think about crossing the NATO frontier.”

SEAN SPEER: You’ve recently written in The Globe and Mail about how these developments have caused us to relearn that soft power is no substitute for hard power. What should Canadian policymakers be doing to strengthen the country’s hard power capacity?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Well, I think we’ve forgotten that we have been a serious, hard power. We fought, lost 60,000 people in the First War, thousands more in the Second World War. People forget that in 1940-41 when Britain was alone, we were one of the largest military forces in the world at that point, and until the Americans can came in, it was Canadian soldiers that, stationed in Britain, that were the guard. So, we have a hard power past; we’ve got some great military commanders. 

This idea that somehow, we’ve always been a bunch of softies it’s just not right. We now need to reinvest in military capabilities, and they need to be 21st-22nd century capabilities. And some of those will be cyber, and some of those will be new planes. Part of what we’re doing here is to prove to our allies in NATO and in the United States that we are reliable partners, that we don’t head to the bathroom when the bill comes in, that you can count on a Canadian to do some difficult part. 

I’ve been saying this for 20 years, not because I’m a warmonger, but because we also want to be a state that is respected in the world. You can’t be respected in the world unless you have some serious lethal capabilities, and we need to develop them and always use them for a peaceful purpose; that is for deterrence, but also to support small countries when they are threatened with authoritarian or totalitarian attack. 

We can do this, and it will require some sacrifice, but we have to get up to a 2 percent expenditure rate. We’ve got to refit our planes and refit our military and make it an attractive career for young Canadians because it’s a great opportunity to serve your country. That’s something we should be doing. I think it’s key to a tradition of liberal internationalism that has been bred into the bone of Canadians.

SEAN SPEER: Just a final question, and it picks up something you mentioned earlier in the conversation. Do you think that Putin’s folly will be ultimately good for liberalism over the long term? And if so, how?

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Well, I don’t think we know how this is going to turn out. I believe it is a belief not a fact that any attempt to wipe out Ukraine or suffocate the desire for freedom of people is simply going to fail. The history here is very, very dispositive. The Russians tried it in Hungary; they tried it in the Czech Republic; they tried it in Poland. They failed, and they will fail in Ukraine. But let’s not get sentimental about this. The suppression of Ukrainian freedom is going to be, is already, unspeakably bloody, and they may be kept under the heel for a very long time. Eventually, they will regain their freedom, but it could be a very long twilight struggle. We have to be absolutely intransigent about this. 

The United States, for example, and I think Canada, to refuse to recognize the Baltic states for something like 60 years, until they regained their freedom—the same thing has to happen. Russia has to be permanently excluded from the international community. The sanctions have to be kept up for a very long time. This is the most serious threat to the international order since the Second World War, and so we’re in for a long, hard slog, and we better not tell ourselves any other story than that. It’s going to take a while, but the Ukrainians will regain their freedom, and their freedom matters to us. Our freedom and their freedom are inseparable, and that’s, I think, one of the key insights of the liberal idea of freedom that I think we need to hold on to.

SEAN SPEER: Of course, the book is On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times. Michael Ignatieff, thank you so much for joining us today at Hub Dialogues. It’s been a great honour.

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: Great, thank you, Sean, great questions.