The Great Churning : Reset of Global Geopolitical Order
The geopolitical order of the world was radically reset in the aftermath of the two great wars. While the Ukraine War is not of the same genre, its impact has been felt globally due to the severe economic sanctions imposed on Russia and the fallout thereof. The Russia-Ukraine politico-economic-military entanglement has accelerated and sharpened changes in the international balance of forces, international security structures and is forcing changes in the global political economy.
Countries tend to formulate their respective narratives based on their perceptions of the regional and global geopolitical situation prevailing in relation to their nation interests. Take the case of the turmoil in Ukraine. The West and Ukraine call it an ‘Invasion’ by the Russian autocratic leader against a ‘democratic’ nation with the aim to change the regime and annex or liberate the whole or a portion of Ukraine. On the other hand, Russia terms it a “Special Military Operation” (Humanitarian Intervention!!??) with a limited aim of ridding Ukraine of the scourge of ‘Nazification’ and bringing an end to the atrocities being committed by these elements on the pro-Russian population in Ukraine, particularly in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
The Geopolitical Futures model argues US, Europe, Russia and China form the northern tier of entities that are the center of power in the global system and they tend to define how the system works at any given moment. These four entities collectively make up over 60 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measure of economic production.
They also collectively contain a majority of global military power. However, they are each different on a scale of economic and military power. Russia has a relatively low GDP but significant military power. The EU members are relative weak militarily but have substantial GDP collectively. The U.S. and China possess both types of power.
Since the West has tended to dictate the terms globally to suit their interests, at the start of the Russian “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine, it again ‘directed’ nations to condemn the Russian ‘Invasion’ and stand up in support of freedom and democracy. The US has made such ‘demands’ earlier too – consequent to the 9/11 attacks in New York, the US President categorically ‘demanded’ that all nations have to take this decision of which side they were in, “You are either with us of against us”!!! This overbearing colonial mindset (yes colonial, because the White Christian majority in the US are descendants of colonisers from Europe mainly Britain) still seems to prevail, expecting the rest of the World to do their bidding. It is all just ‘Black and White’ in their perception, with no scope for those ‘fifty shades of grey’.
The technological edge of the West, across the spectrum, empowers them to set the agenda and dictate the terms. Coupled with the US Dollar being the preferred international currency and as foreign exchange reserve allows the US and EU to squeeze countries into submission through economic sanctions and get them in line.
In 2104, when US orchestrated the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically President (Poroshenko was an elected President) by a US puppet Zelensky in a sham election. As a pro-active counter move, Russia secured the Island of Crimea. In fact the Ukraine War commenced then. In April 2014, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbas escalated into a war between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.US has been involved in supporting Ukraine ever since. On 21st February 2022, Russia officially recognised the two self-proclaimed separatist states in the Donbas, and openly sent troops into the territories. Three days later, Russia directly launched its ‘Special Military Operation’ into Ukraine. It is noteworthy that even as Russia’s ‘Special Military Operation’ is underway, it is conducting a Russian led exercise ‘VOSTOK 2022’ in its far-eastern districts from August 30th to September 5th 2022. Five countries, namely, India, China, Belarus, Tajikistan and Mongolia were in action together with Russia. Putin through this exercise has sent a message to the West that it still has the diplomatic capabilities to organize other nations with him despite being left as a ‘pariah’ state by the West. Also Russia has indicated that its ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine is not a full-fledged war being conducted by Russia.
The West has its own version of the Ukraine War. With the deep state controlling the entire western and global English language media the version of the West has gained currency. Their clarion call is to stand up to these fascist forces that are hell bent on destroying the free world. Every measure available in their ‘playbook’ is being employed to isolate, humiliate and eliminate Russia as a reckonable economic and military power. There is a view that by the civilian, material, ecological damage inflicted on Russia, they believe this war is beneficial for long-term interests of the hegemonic powers – without spilling any US blood. The calculation is that this proxy, secret, long and hybrid war will decimate Russia. With such a weakening, Russia’s partners – whether China, India, Central Asia, and others in the global South – will have to take sides and look for alternate partnerships in the democracy versus autocracy byline
While the West talks of a “Rules based World Order”, the Russians talk of a “Law based International Order”. Incidentally the origin of the phrase “new world order” or “new order in the world” was to refer to Axis Powers plans for world domination. US President Truman speeches have other similar phrases such as, “better world order”, “peaceful world order”, “moral world order” and “world order based on law” but not so much “new world order”.
That aside, the Russians believe “that these rules are being coordinated behind the scenes by a small group of countries and then are forced on the rest of the world. There has been a trend leading to increasingly protectionist policies and growing trade differences, which sometimes take the form of full-scale trade wars. The wide use of illegal unilateral sanctions, which have long become an instrument of unfair competition, offers little room for optimism as well.Taken together, this is increasing the confrontation potential.” (Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister). The Minister further argues that there is no document stipulating the ‘Rules’ and that these rules of a “rules based world order” are often formulated to suit the West’s immediate geo-strategic requirement. Consequently Russia opts for an “International Law Based World Order” which would be based on the existing UN Charter. The counter is that the West sees this as a subtle way which Russi is maneuvering to get back into the position prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The deep range of sanctions have weaponised the financial exchange system, international currency equation, US dollar linked foreign exchange reserves, individuals bank, immovable and movable assets, export/import of food grains, insurance for global shipping and a host of other common goods. Russia has countered with a supply-chain attack. The great global geopolitical churning is underway.
World War II was deemed to be the war that will end all wars, but that, in fact, turned out to pertain to Europe only because these erstwhile colonial powers transferred wars to the developing world! Now the world suddenly realised that they are as vulnerable to the West as they were when these very nations had colonized them and exploited their resources for centuries. They emerged victorious after World War II while their colonies were still not free. Therefore, the United Nations, and Bretton Wood institutions that were created, had these very hegemonic colonial powers setting the agenda which suited them most and which also ensured it all remained in their control. These are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (later World Bank), and an International Trade Organization (ITO) that never got off the ground but did evolve into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the early 1990’s.The boards of governors and executive boards of these institutions would be controlled by the countries with the largest investments (quotas), this automatically gave the West full control and that is how it remains till-date. This is the neo-colonialism that is prevalent.
There has always been criticism of the World Bank and the IMF by the developing nations which encompasses a whole range of issues but they generally are concerned about the approaches adopted by the World Bank and the IMF in formulating their policies. This includes the social and economic impact these policies have on the population of countries who avail themselves of financial assistance from these two institutions.
These centers on the following:
= The two institutions in the course of discharging their mandates through the multi-lateral corporations do not observe the rule of law and violate human rights of some nations.
= Conditionality imposed in terms or covenants for the grant of the loans succeeded in promoting mass un-employment and poverty in the benefiting nations.
= The guidelines and principles set out by the institutions are more favourable to the developed nations as opposed to the less developed nations. Also that membership of these institutions does not reflect fair representations of all member nations.
= Often the operation of the standards and principles of the international economic law has violated the traditional principles of sovereignty.
The UN is conspicuous by its absence in most of the security related clashes in the world. The US has dictated the terms in all cases with the UN being incorporated at the last moment to shield itself from being branded a hegemon, which it is. Interestingly, Multinationals and Non-Government Organisations (receiving funds from the West) are growing in their clout to shape a country’s economy and influence its population. All the Multinationals which were operating in Russia have exited the country in support of the West’s clarion call. With these went thousands of jobs and the money these companies generated for the economy.
The reform of the UNSC is also a tourniquet used by the ‘veto’ five to individually get the aspirants to toe their line. That UK is a dominant global power is an oxymoron and totally ludicrous. If possessing a few hundred nuclear warheads is the criteria for being graded a great power, then the next line up for “great powers” status will be North Korea and Iran!! Therefore the question arises as to why is UK a permanent member of the UNSC when Japan, South Korea, India and Brazil are not?
EU is a voluntary supranational political and economic union of 27 democratic sovereign member states with market economies all located in Europe. NATO has a combined military force of over 14 Lakhs. Instead of France being a permanent member of the UNSC it should be the EU which should hold that seat. To include France in the group of the victors of World War II is itself questionable, because at the commencement of the War, France was wholly overrun and had capitulated totally. What is the compelling reason for continuing with the existing quorum which is not an authentic representation of the rest of the world? The more this reform is delayed the less will be the faith of the nations in its ability to secure cooperation for peace on the planet and more will be the developing world’s irreverence towards this organisation. Also it will fragment the countries into regional security and economic blocs. That will only accelerate the de-globalisation process which had started consequent to the shutdown forced due on the nations by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In this churning China is playing its cards with dexterity. China has calculated that if Russia wins this war, it will be a second defeat for the Americans after Afghanistan, and it will severely dentits global aspirations and validation particularly in the Indo-Pacific. If Russia loses the war, it’ll become much more dependent on China. So China gains either way. China wants to de-escalate tensions with the US but is firm about Taiwan’s reintegration with China in the future. However, China was confronted with an unprecedented situation when the US Speaker of the House of Representatives visited Taiwan despite China’s fiery threats and ultimatums. Less than two weeks after Pelosi’s visit another delegation of US Lawmakers landed in Taiwan. Later two US Navy guided-missile cruisers – the USS Antietam and the USS Chancellorsville –sailed through the Taiwan .. Straits to demonstrate freedom of navigation through international waters.”
These ships transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” as claimed by the US. China is seeing red and in its belligerence it did let go a lot of fireworks to scare Taiwan and show fiery eyes to the US. The Chinese reactions have only resulted in Taiwan gaining more support while China did not gain any sympathisers – probably lost more support.
Another significant fallout of this churning is the availability or non-availability of nuclear weapons with states. If in the end state Russia gets territorial gains (de facto or de jure), a new “nuclear impunity” precedent will have been set that will incentivise more states to become nuclear and may tempt authoritarian nuclear states to use conventional force to settle their territorial disputes at the expense of states not covered by a nuclear umbrella. The peoples struggle for a ‘nuclear free’ world seems to be losing out to a proliferation of nuclear weapons. Or it may just force all countries to rethink and seek a ‘nuclear free world’!!
As a first step US, UK, France and Russia should declare a policy of ‘No First Use’ and ‘no use of nuclear weapons on no-nuclear states’, a policy these countries have shunned from adopting for more than seventy-five years.
In this churning it is my opinion that India should reconsider its membership of the Commonwealth. This grouping is being perpetuated by Britain to subtly continue to ‘lord’ over its former colonies and pontificate over them condescendingly. It is time that India emerges out of the dark shadows of the last vestiges of colonialism and walks out of the Commonwealth honourably. Now that the Naval Ensign has been changed by getting rid of the George Cross, walking out of the Commonwealth should be the next logical step and there are enough reasons to do so.
It would not be out of place to state that this churning is likely to result in a deglobalised world, fragmented regionally into new power blocs that will increase global instability and insecurity; with disrupted supply chains resulting in slowdown in the economies and lowering of GDP’s; weak economies will lead to increased unemployment resulting in instability and unrest particularly within the developing and underdeveloped states; the UN, UNSC, World Bank, IMF and WTO will be marginalized and considerably weakened; MNC’s and NGO’s will dictate terms to smaller weak and vulnerable nations and interfere in their governance; non-state actors and armed drug cartels will become more active, increasing non-traditional threats; an arms race is likely which will divert nations funds from the much needed social development projects; and finally nuclear weapons will proliferate.
“….the powerful wolves are out to eat the weak lambs”. Colonialism is dead but colonialist mindsets persist. Can freedom and democracy survive in such vicious environment? We need to seriously ponder over it.
By Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa