The Atlantic’s June Cover Story: “The Counteroffensive,” by Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg

Bono illustrates President Zelensky for June cover

The Atlantic's June 2023 Cover
Illustrated by Bono

The future of democracy worldwide depends in part on whether the Ukrainian army can break the current stalemate and achieve complete victory. In a new cover story reported from frontline Kherson, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, and other cities and military bases across Ukraine, The Atlantic’s staff writer Anne Applebaum and editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, write that now is the moment for the United States and the Western world to help Ukraine launch its counteroffensive, take back Crimea, and win the war. “Uniquely, the United States has the power to determine how, and how quickly, the war of attrition turns into something quite different,” write Applebaum and Goldberg. “Over the next few months, as the Ukrainians take their best shot at winning the war, the democratic world will have to decide whether to help them do so. Sovereignty, safety, and justice—shouldn’t Americans want the war to end that way too?”

Notably, The Atlantic’s June cover is illustrated by U2’s lead singer, Bono, who sketches Zelensky and includes a quote from the Ukrainian president: “The choice is between freedom and fear.” In an editor’s note, also published today, Goldberg writes that, after learning Bono has a hobby of redesigning and reimagining Atlantic covers, he invited the singer and writer to create an original. “Zelensky, a man we both admire, was a natural subject for his first go. Like Anne, Bono is preoccupied with issues of freedom and dignity, and, working with Oliver Munday, our associate creative director, he made a stunning cover that captures the resolve of Ukraine’s wartime president.”

The Atlantic’s cover story makes clear why a continued stalemate would be disastrous, because Putin thinks he can win a drawn-out war of attrition that would darken the future of Europe and the democratic world. The moment for the U.S. and aligned nations to help Ukraine win is now. Applebaum and Goldberg write: “The fate of NATO, of America’s position in Europe, indeed of America’s position in the world are all at stake. But something even deeper is at stake as well. As Zelensky put it, this is a war over a fundamental definition of not just democracy but civilization, a battle ‘to show everybody else, including Russia, to respect sovereignty, human rights, territorial integrity; and to respect people, not to kill people, not to rape women, not to kill animals, not to take that which is not yours.’”

Applebaum and Goldberg argue that the West spends too little time thinking about the enormous positive global consequences of a Ukrainian victory––and how it would reverberate around the world, particularly in countries whose dictatorships are propped up by the Russians. As it is currently governed, Russia is a source of instability not just in Ukraine but around the world, and Ukrainians need a military success with enough symbolic power to force change. “Only one thing matters: Russia’s leaders must conclude that the war was a mistake, and Russia must acknowledge Ukraine as an independent country with the right to exist. The Russian elite, in other words, must experience an internal shift of the kind that led the French to end their colonial project in Algeria in the early 1960s—a change that was accompanied by the collapse of the French constitutional order, attempted assassinations, and a failed coup d’état … When that happens in Russia, the war will be over. Not suspended, not delayed for a month or a year—over.”

Applebaum and Goldberg write: “Ukrainians are waiting for the counteroffensive. Europeans, East and West, are waiting for the counteroffensive. Central Asians are waiting for the counteroffensive. Belarusians, Venezuelans, Iranians, and others around the world whose dictatorships are propped up by the Russians—they are all waiting for the counteroffensive too. This spring, this summer, this autumn, Ukraine gets a chance to alter geopolitics for a generation. And so does the United States.”

The Counteroffensive” is published today at The Atlantic. Please reach out with any questions or requests.

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Anna Bross and Paul Jackson | The Atlantic