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On the Global Alignments that May Emerge After the Ukrainian War…

On the Global Alignments that May Emerge After the Ukrainian War…

Thursday, 31 March, 2022 - 09:15

Julian Borger, a British writer and world affairs editor at The Guardian, joined the debate on how the Russian war on Ukraine could reconfigure international alliances. His theory, most of which was written in question form, suggests a schism splitting the United States and its Western allies from the non-Western rest of the world.

This schism has geographical, political, and ideological aspects, but neither of these schisms is complete. The geographic aspect facilitates the argument that the war is a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the rest, while the political and ideological aspects facilitate its depiction as a “war of wills” or a “war of interests.”

Regarding geography, it has become clear, with the United Nations General Assembly vote a few days ago, that Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea are the countries unequivocally siding with Russia. Three of these countries are not European, and one (Belarus) is only a little European. However, they all share an approach to governance similar to that found in Russia and are only linked by hostility to the European-North American approach.

Regarding politics and ideology, it has been noted the countries outside Europe and North America that went beyond merely supporting Ukraine, joining the countries of those continents in slapping sanctions on Russia. Those are Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand. All of these Asian or semi-Asian countries have adopted the governance framework in place in Western Europe and the United States, that is, parliamentary democracy.

China, in this context, provides the strongest affirmation of the accuracy of such a geographical and political-ideological alignment: It is both a massive Asian country and it is stubbornly rebuffing Western democracy. India, in contrast, sheds more doubt about this alignment than any other country: it is both a vast Asian country, and democratic. India not only sympathizes with Russia, but it is also working on developing a trade mechanism that would allow New Delhi and Moscow to trade using their local currencies in order to help the latter evade the sanctions restricting its access to dollars.

Here, we notice another aspect of the Russian-Western conflict: the conflict between nationalist populism and globalization. Through the ongoing war, nationalist populism has exposed globalization’s fragility and the many avenues for disrupting it. The unjust manner in which wealth is distributed in a globalized economy expanded the blocs of countries hostile to the US. This hatred manifests itself in support for Russia because it is “breaking the unipolar world order,” and in anger towards Ukraine.

At any rate, the “civilizational” assessment that builds its argument on basic, broad geographic realities is likely to spread and become sharper. A few of the things that have facilitated the spread of this view can be found in comparisons with how the world map was divided during the Cold War:

At the time, the Americans and the Soviets found supporters drawn to them for various reasons across the five continents. That is not the case today, or at least it does not seem to be.

One of the reasons behind this shift is that the United States has been retreating gradually from some parts of the world over the last two decades. The Middle East stands top of the list. Iran’s brazen aggression in the region, Bashar al-Assad’s ability to maintain power, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan have convinced many that America’s days leading the world are numbered.

Despite all of that, there remains a factor that wasn’t addressed with the precision it deserves. It is true, as we have already said, that globalization is fragile. However, this fragility does not necessarily negate all of its strengths. Globalization’s strength shouldn’t be underestimated either. This may explain what some have called China’s hybrid stance, or at least its reluctance and awkwardness. China’s trade with the United States and Western Europe is incomparable to its economic interests with an increasingly impoverished Russia.

When it comes to India, many question its ability to maintain its current stance for much longer. The Soviet-Indian friendship that developed under Jawaharlal Nehru and Nikita Khrushchev was intimately linked to the rapid industrialization policies that Nehru saw as a solution to India’s poverty. This approach, in its turn, became a thing of the past.

Moreover, current Russian-Chinese relations worry India, and they could push New Delhi to change its posture. We should recall that Soviet-Indian friendship coincided with the widening of divergences between Moscow and Beijing, India’s biggest adversary. That is not the case today. India’s smaller adversary, Pakistan, was simultaneously backed by both Beijing and Washington, strengthening the push for Moscow.

Pinning these divergences down to a “clash of civilizations” or a “civilizational competition” is a hasty oversimplification, though some indicators suggest that may be the case. It suffices to say that when speaking about the Indians and China alone and the volatile and unpredictable conditions of China and India, we are talking about more than a third of the world’s population. So, we can only imagine what would happen if Russia were to emerge defeated from its adventure, thereby dashing deluded hopes that it could break unipolarity and become a reference for others to imitate.

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