The West appears to have a blind spot concerning the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. Despite billions of dollars of military aid being provided to Ukraine, those same countries have barely reacted to Myanmar’s Feb. 1, 2021, military coup. This lack of response is highly concerning and sends a strong message that the West has particular preferences regarding intervening in international affairs. Meanwhile, it’s becoming more apparent that more needs to be done regarding this coup before Myanmar’s situation worsens. Countries worldwide must follow through with substantial and meaningful action to de-escalate tensions, hold those responsible for abuses accountable, and guarantee protection for all citizens in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Plight

As of 2021, the situation in Myanmar is complex and volatile. In the wake of a military overthrow of a democratically elected government, the international community has been mostly silent on how to respond. This response is markedly different from other recent conflicts, such as Ukraine, where the West quickly condemned Russia’s involvement and called for greater international action. Let’s investigate why this difference exists between these two situations.

The National Unity Government (NUG) in Myanmar is fighting for political freedom in the Southeast Asian country and has faced challenges in building enough awareness of its cause. Despite the current struggle, it has been able to mobilize numerous people who have put their lives on the line to push for democratic reform. Additionally, they have been actively trying to gain weapons from Western countries sympathetic to their plight. Unfortunately, many major powers have remained silent on the situation, leaving NUG more limited than desired when defending themselves against military brutality. Despite this limitation, they remain determined to fight for a fair democracy.

Lack of Visible Iconic Leader

Ukraine’s struggle for stability and international recognition has long been a contention. Despite the increasing attention from the international community in recent years, the country still needs to become a respected leader in global politics. This is mainly due to the lack of visibility of an iconic leader that incites worldwide confidence and trust in Ukraine’s political landscape. Volodymyr Zelensky, the current President of Ukraine, has made some bold attempts at gaining success, yet his efforts have fallen short amid continuous internal instability. With an enduring presence on an international stage, Zelensky can unite domestic and foreign constituents to support Ukraine’s national objectives. Therefore, Zelensky must be given more opportunities to demonstrate his leadership potential to succeed in preserving Ukrainian sovereignty and become an influential role model for future generations.

One reason for the difference in response could be the lack of an iconic leader in Myanmar similar to that seen in Ukraine with Yulia Tymoshenko. In Ukraine, Tymoshenko provided a visible target for Western governments and media outlets to rally behind and galvanize public opinion against Russia’s involvement in the conflict. Unfortunately, this kind of leadership was absent from Myanmar’s situation, leaving Western governments needing a focal point or figurehead to rally around.

Complexities Within Myanmar Making it Difficult for the West to Intervene

Another possible explanation lies in the complexities present within Myanmar itself. The country is divided by language, ethnicity, religion, and politics, which makes it difficult for outside forces to intervene without risking further destabilization or exacerbating existing tensions. As a result, the West may have adopted a ‘hands off’ approach to not escalate an already tense situation into something even more dangerous and unpredictable.