I was planning to make this argument, but Fukuyama says it better than I would have:
Thirdly, a Russian military failure—meaning at minimum the liberation of territories conquered after 24 February 2022—will have enormous political reverberations around the world. Russia and China prior to the war argued that liberal democracies, particularly the United States, were in decline. They argued that their authoritarian systems were better at accomplishing big tasks and acting decisively. What has happened instead is that the Russian model of centralized decision-making, centered around one man, has committed one of the gravest political blunders in recent history. Putin, isolated during the pandemic and out of touch with the reality both of his own military and of public opinion in Ukraine, believed that he would be greeted there as a liberator. China, for its part, is seeing its rate of growth tanking as the result of a “zero-Covid” policy that its paramount leader, Xi Jinping, seems determined not to waver from. Western democracies, by contrast, have appeared united and determined in the face of this challenge.
If the Ukrainians don’t simply hold out against Russia but actually defeat Russia’s massive army and force it to retreat, the positive reverberations will be felt across the globe. Populist nationalists around the world, from Viktor Orbán to Matteo Salvini to Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump, have expressed admiration for Putin’s style of strongman rule. A Russian defeat and humiliation will puncture this narrative of the advantages of authoritarian government, and might lead to a rekindling of democratic self-confidence. It has been easy for publics in Western democracies to take for granted the peace and prosperity brought about by the liberal world order. It may be the case that every generation needs to relearn the lesson that the alternatives to liberal democracy lead to violence, repression, and ultimately economic failure. Such a lesson will be driven home if the world sees brave Ukrainians fighting for their country succeed beyond all expectations.
Ukraine will win. Slava Ukraini!