The war between Russia and Ukraine is marking a historical turning point in the scenario of international relations. While old alliances are trying to strengthen ties in order to reaffirm their influence, new political balances are emerging to outline an alternative global architecture. What can we expect in the near future? And what long-term consequences we will be forced to face?
With the onset of hostilities between Moscow and Kiev, world of political and international diplomacy has been shaken by a geopolitical earthquake, whose effects have begun to manifest globally. The first immediate element is the sudden cooperation disruption between West and East, in particular with Russian-European relations.
The high number of sanctions against private individuals, banking, manufacturing or energy institutions, have violently broken decades of cooperation with Moscow, thus creating the basis for a greater political influence from the United States. Furthermore the EU have openly warned of “consequences” if China (as well as other nations) decides to financially support Russia in the future. An invitation not particularly welcome to Beijing, which does not intend to submit by sacrificing its interests, despite its privileged position with the West.
Due to this harsh attitude the European Institutions are inevitably pushing the world towards a bipolarization of the international system. On one hand the so-called “enlarged West” (Japan and South Korea included), supported by American administration. On the other a growing Eurasian bloc, which could also include geographically outside nations such as Brazil and South Africa.
In future it is highly possible that the role of international relations might be considerably reduced between these blocs. Eventually it would result in a lack of diplomatic flexibility and a serious disadvantage in the resolution of global conflicts, especially for the Old Continent. Brussels would be condemned to obey American policies in a growing regional tension with Russia and globally with China, both in economics and in strategic defense.
In this context of global division, the political scenario is aggravated by a renewed militarization of international relations. After thirty years in which conflicts have been dismissed as “unpleasant peripheral necessities” in defense of democracy, the war in Ukraine has brought the military dimension back to the center of diplomatic relations.
This is proven by the recent Pentagon’s decision to deploy an addition of 20.000 soldiers on the European soil, 25% more than previous months. According to Le Monde, it has reported how this repositioning goes to further increase the number of units already stationed on the continent, currently estimated at over 100.000 men.
A presence that might become permanent and in future nuclear, due to requests from Poland and the Baltic states to strengthen their borders. Furthermore, even countries such as Finland and Sweden have decided to abandon their historical position of neutrality by formally requesting membership of NATO.
With this decision the Atlantic alliance would now see a further territorial expansion and a growth in the demand for latest generation armaments, also by other NATO members. Italy and Germany have in fact recently decided to shift their pacifist position, in favor of an increase in the defense budget for the years to come.
This means that the current implications of the ongoing conflict will not end with a peace agreement. On the contrary they will increasingly intensify a global arms race, as shown by the recent launch of the first American hypersonic missile in response to the Russian one over Lviv; as well as the risk of a nuclear proliferation, which might in future involve countries historically against it, like Japan.
As direct consequence of this increase in military weight, we will witness a profound reorganization of diplomatic strategies, which will be structured towards a greater geopolitical pragmatism. International relations will likely see a renewed return of the role of the nation-state and a possible less involvement of worldwide organizations such as the UN.
Countries like Russia, China and India will strengthen their internal systems, implementing economic and international policies in order to defend their national interests, especially towards NATO and the West in general. An example is Moscow’s reaction to Western sanctions thanks to a series of counter-sanctions aimed at targeting some key sectors (like agriculture and energy) of the so-called “unfriendly countries”, thus forcing the payment of gas and raw material supplies only in national currency, otherwise exports would be blocked.
Furthermore, Russia intends in the following years to develop a strong Eurasian geopolitical turn, attempting to cement an economic axis that would eventually reach Delhi via Beijing. According to political scientist Sergey Karaganoff, relations with these two Asian giants will be destined to increase, not excluding a future ratification of a mutual defense treaty with China.
Although there are still strong ties with the West, the China is aware that if Russia is defeated, Beijing will be next on the American list. For this reason, on the eve of the meeting between Xi Jinping and Biden, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declared that any attempts of the US to put pressure on China regarding the situation in Ukraine are irresponsible and useless. Chinese President himself strongly criticized the unilateral sanctions policy, saying that Beijing has no intention of pursuing a policy aimed at forming blocs and intensifying confrontation.
Also India appears determined to follow a more pragmatic and less ideological line. Although the recent agreementbetween Brussels and New Delhi has been signed with the political intention to drift the country away from trades with Russia; Narendra Modi continues to build closer relations with Moscow, diversifying the acquisition of strategic and daily supplies for the growth of the country, such as fertilizers, commodities and fuels.
A GLOBAL SHAKING
In this general framework, we can therefore see how the geopolitical world will no longer be the same. The future formation of new blocs could lead not only to a series of rivalries between ideologies as during the Cold War, but also to a clash of civilizations as prophesied more than 20 years ago by political scientist Samuel Huntington in his famous essay.
However, as mentioned at the beginning, the consequences of this conflict will soon involve other sectors. From the Americas through Africa, up to the East, world is destined to witness long-lasting repercussions on economy and society due to the lack of energy, food and raw materials.
The inevitable economic consequences, caused by the increase in energy prices, will predictably add to the shock of Covid 19, putting a further brake on economic and political globalization. Moreover, in this context of global instability, food prices are rising and they will continue to increase exponentially also due to the difficulties of keeping supply chains active.
Added to this is the risk of famine, unrest and political instability even in European countries. In particular in all those realities which are not energy producers, but they are forced to import a high percentages of raw materials. The possession or the lack of some key resources would be decisive in future for the political survival of one of the two macro-blocks. In the next part we will uncover the reasons of this incoming energy and food crisis as well as its effects on the “grand chessboard”.