Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Dangerous Labor in a Non-Functional International Clinic

We have a patient in critical condition and he is bleeding profusely. We have a single intensive care unit that isn't functional. This is what makes the war in Ukraine more dangerous than the Vietnam War, Korean War, Berlin crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis, and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The world of the two camps wasn't reassuring, but it at least kept a safety valve. It had an intensive care unit at the international clinic that was overseen by two surgeons, one a Soviet, the other an American. It took only a phone call between the White House and Kremlin and an exchange of some form of concession for the intensive care unit to work properly again. It was enough for the two surgeons to reach an agreement to save the patient from death.

Any fire on the planet could be put out by an American-Soviet agreement, especially when China was still reeling from the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four.

In that world, Washington and Moscow had a definite desire to avoid any direct collision between two armies with a nuclear arsenal. They respected red lines in several areas of influence under their control

In the summer of 1982, when Ariel Sharon's forces were surrounding Beirut, Yasser Arafat, George Hawi and Mohsen Ibrahim met in a bomb shelter in the capital in search of the last hope. Hawi resorted to the Soviet embassy and requested from Ambassador Alexander Soldatov that his country dispatch a warship to the Mediterranean off the Beirut coast so that it could lift the morale of its besieged allies. The ambassador said that would be impossible because it would risk sliding into a conflict with America that was firmly supporting Israel.

Hawi was left disappointed and forced to lower his expectations. He proposed that Moscow dispatch a vessel to transfer the wounded from Beirut, but he was also met with the same rejection.

The three officials in Beirut realized that the Soviet Union was showing signs of weakness. Arafat concluded that Washington was the one holding the keys. Nearly a decade later, the Oslo Accords would be signed in the White House. After four decades, some are saying that America is showing signs of weakness after its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In the post-Soviet Union world, the intensive care unit appeared capable of working when needed. Vladimir Putin needed to rehabilitate the Russian Federation, body and soul. He hid behind his smiles and handshakes a major plan for revenge that is based on providing the Red Army with the creed of confronting the West - the architect of the colored revolutions and NATO's siege of Russia. Putin fed society and the army the idea of a new siege that the West was devising. He restored his country's missile might and fangs.

Putin never sensed that he could adopt Qassem Soleimani's approach of infiltrating maps and shifting balances of power there without invading them. He does not have the patience of Xi Jinping, who prefers to wait for the fruit to ripen, while banking on a major general named time.

Some believed that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine. They believed that the Russian public would reject a civil war within the Slavic house. Some also believed that Ukraine would be quick in raising the white flag and that the West in the post-pandemic world and after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan would swallow the bitter pill instead of getting tangled up in Ukraine.

It's no stretch to say that the post-Ukraine world will be different from what it was before. It is as if we are going through a very dangerous labor. We are still in the early stages and have more questions than answers. Is it true that the sun of the American arrogance was setting? Is it true that Washington's position would weaken after its proven failure in managing a unipolar world? Is it true that the future management of the world will take place in the American-Russian-Chinese triangle? Is it true that the world is in a new heated arms race? Can the Russian economy do what the Soviet Union failed to achieve in this regard?

Does the constant dancing on the hot tin roof favor China's major program that is advancing under the veil of economic growth, fighting poverty and the dreams of the Belt and Road project?

What about Europe, especially countries that have grown addicted to Russian gas and which are now being called to boycott Russian exports and raise armament funding?

What about India, this worried Asian giant that doesn't like to take risks? What will Israel do if this conflict stretches on? Where does Iran stand after the return to the nuclear deal?

The labor will lead to the rearrangement of seats in the club of major power. Questions have also been raised about globalization, the western economic example, the prices of commodities, energy, investment, sanctions and the position of the dollar, yuan, rouble and euro. The arranging of currencies usually signals the arranging of generals.

The early stages of a long bitter labor in a broken down international clinic. Will the Arabs manage to find a position for themselves in the post-pandemic world? Will they manage to form an influential economic force and political will to keep the channels open with the parties of the new triangle and Europe? Will they manage to form a force capable of dealing with the members of the triangle based on mutual interests and the discussion of concerns and challenges while guaranteeing security and stability?

In handling a difficult international labor, one cannot rely on waiting.

Arab countries must take the initiative and protect their economies and societies and contain the impact of the Ukraine war. They must consolidate their borders and civil peace and preserve their network of relations that safeguard interests.

Libya's interest demands that it not await the result of the labor because it is torn between two rival governments. Yemen's interest demands that the Yemenis seize the opportunity provided by the Riyadh consultations to turn a new page and announce the reforging of ties between them and their return to living in a state that fits all. The formation of the presidential council, with Saudi Arabia's support and Arab and international praise, could be the beginning of this chapter.

The opportunity must also be seized in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. It is not in the Arabs' interests that their countries remain an open arena for the severe push and pull in which they would pay the price of major duels within the new triangle.

The scene in Ukraine is terrible. Russia is raining down rockets on European soil and preparing to determine the fate of a part of Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers are targeting Russian tanks and jets with fresh weapons provided by NATO. Biden's accusations against Putin confirm that the intensive care unit is out of service. China, which is calling for dissipating uncertainty, is only compounding it.