They're not just faraway countries of which we know little.
They're not just former Soviet states.
And they're certainly not just part of Russia's natural sphere of influence.
What happens in Ukraine, what happens in Georgia, and what happens in Moldova matters -- and it matters a lot.
Because these three countries represent the front line of one of the most consequential conflicts of our time.
They form the contested zone in a battle of governance, the results of which will be felt for generations.
Because while what we are experiencing now is not really a Cold War in the sense that most understand that term, we nevertheless are in a battle between two normative systems on the Eurasian landmass.
The one to the West is based on values we hold near and dear: individual rights, accountable government, transparency, the rule of law, and the sanctity of contracts.
And the one to the East is based on a very different set of principles: patron-client relationships, cronyism, paternalism, and the subordination of the law to power.
Despite very real flaws in how it has been implemented in practice, the Western normative system has facilitated unprecedented peace and prosperity.
The other normative system has led to repression and deprivation.
When you strip away all the rhetoric and all the spin, this is the essence of the conflict between Moscow and the West.
And in this war of governance, what happens in the countries in the middle -- in Ukraine, in Georgia, and in Moldova -- is far from inconsequential.
NOTE TO VIEWERS: As I will be going on vacation, The Daily Vertical and all Power Vertical products will not appear from August 7-11. The regular schedule will resume on Monday August 14.