Inflection point for a Western-led global order

Its future will be defined by how it responds to the crisis in Ukraine, and in the shadow of growing Russia-China relations.

Its future will be defined by how it responds to the crisis in Ukraine, and in the shadow of growing Russia-China relations.

The Ukraine crisis comes at a time when Russia shot down and launched a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine”. Even as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was warning that the world was facing a “moment of danger” and “restraint, Reason and de-escalation”. Russian forces that had gathered on Ukraine’s borders for months were now preparing to attack Ukraine – after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the Russian-backed, rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent and Even challenged the historical authority of Ukraine. Present.

Mr Putin insisted he was open to “direct and honest talks”, but the ladder he climbed ensured that talks were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. And the Russian Foreign Ministry even suggested that the idea to blame Russia for the crisis in Ukraine is an invention by the West. But the invasion has now come before the international community, with Mr Putin saying Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanding that its military lay down its arms. Launching a “special military operation” and alleging that Ukraine’s democratically elected government was “responsible for eight years of genocide”, Moscow’s seeming goal is to demilitarize and “denounce” Ukraine.

Putin vs West

Hours before the invasion, Western countries imposed a new round of sanctions against Moscow (targeting Russian individuals and banks linked to Mr. Certification of Pipeline Nord Stream 2 was suspended. His nation. But apparently this had no real effect on Mr. Putin’s calculations.

United States President Joe Biden, in response to the invasion, suggested that Washington and its allies would respond unitedly and decisively to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine. But the future course of action for the West remains quite doubtful. Perhaps because of this, the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, continues to emphasize the need to “remain united and determined and jointly define our collective vision and actions”. The EU has announced a “massive” package of sanctions as it comes in the context of “the darkest time in Europe since World War II”.

While Mr. Putin has shown resolve and a one-minded sense of purpose, the West has been inconsistent in its response – not being able to present a united front, and worse, even sometimes a single one. Don’t even speak the language. For Mr Putin, this is a moment to use Ukraine to highlight his broader demands for a restructuring of the European security system after the Cold War. For the West, this has been a moment when it has been found lacking – a lack of imagination, a lack of will and a lack of leadership, all rolled into creating an indifferent response to one of the most serious security crises in decades.

general disorder

Mr Biden’s leadership has been found wanted. For all his talk of leading through the coalition, he only has to show a disarray in the European ranks. While Germany has been reluctant to allow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to send German-origin weapons to Ukraine, France has used this moment of crisis to show its leadership credibility. French President Emmanuel Macron has been talking about the EU making decisions independent of the US in an effort to show its “strategic autonomy”. The Trans-Atlantic Coalition has barely worked despite all those who argued it was US President Donald Trump’s fault for dissolving the partnership. It turns out that even Mr Biden has not been able to build trans-Atlantic engagement around the common objectives he pursues collectively.

energy factor

In addition, the EU’s energy dependence on Russia is a reality that has to be factored into strategic considerations. The EU imports 39% of its total gas imports and 30% of its oil from Russia, and with Central and Eastern European countries almost 100% dependent on Russian gas, it is not difficult to fathom the reasons for internal EU incompatibility. Is.

While Russia has repeatedly made it clear that it is ready to use the means of force to achieve its diplomatic objectives, the only refrain from the West has been that it has no intention of advancing . In such a scenario, the initiative always lies with the side that can demonstrate a willingness to defuse the tension. Mr. Putin is prepared to take a significant strategic risk the West is unwilling to take. And, as a result, the initiative has been with Russia from the very beginning of this conflict. The West has been left to react reflexively to the events around it. And it is in the nature of great power politics that small and vulnerable nations like Ukraine struggle to maintain their existence.

a strong seedling

This ineffective Western response has encouraged not only Russia but also China as the West’s attention is in danger of turning away from the Indo-Pacific. The Russia-China ‘axis’ is only going to get stronger as both nations prepare to take on the West which is willing to accept even without a fight.

This week in 1972, US President Richard Nixon joined hands with Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and radically changed the contours of the global order by reshaping the current balance of power. It allowed China to emerge as the leading global economic power and helped America win the Cold War.

Today, the balance of power is once again in flux, and as China develops a strategic partnership with Russia, the future of the West-led global order will be defined by how effectively it responds to the crisis in Ukraine. The tragedy of superpower politics is unfolding in Europe, but its embers will scorch the world far and wide outside Europe.

Harsh V. Pant is the Director of Research at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and Professor of International Relations, King’s College London.