One year of the Russia-Ukraine war has altered the global canvas in a manner that nearly 40 years of the Cold War could not do. The small-time tacticians are busy expressing their profound views holding Russia as the culprit.
In doing so, they willingly and deliberately miss the woods for the trees. The US and the then USSR clearly understood NATO’s sphere of influence. After the break up of the USSR, the same understanding was agreed to, albeit tacitly, between US and Russia. However, 12 nations of NATO continued to expand and reached a figure of 30 members over the years.
The primary cause of the Russia-Ukraine war is deliberately not being addressed by the US. If the US leadership assures Russia that Ukraine will not be admitted into the NATO fold, more than 400 days of war will end.
But instead of adopting proactive measures to help end the war, which has every chance of turning nuclear, the US and its NATO followers have decided to exercise options, which will intensify the war in the foreseeable future.
The admission of Finland into the NATO fold on April 4, 2023, is one such act with Sweden to follow in the coming months. The US is determined to ‘buy out’ the objections of Hungary and Turkiye by granting them concessions demanded by them for agreeing to clear Sweden’s entry into the NATO fold.
International Alliances/Radical Changes
1. AUKUS treaty for the supply of Nuclear Submarines to Australia: Treaty members are Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US.
2. Revival of QUAD: A grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the US for the Indo-Pacific.
3. CHIP 4 Alliance: It involves Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US.
4. I2U2: It comprises India, Israel, UAE, and the US.
5. West Asia Peace: China brokered peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Role Of Europe/NATO
After World War II ended, Europe was divided into two major military alliances; NATO and Warsaw Pact. While USSR led the Warsaw Pact alliance, the US governed and led the NATO alliance, of which most countries were from Europe.
Post-Second World War decades can be clearly identified as the decades of US domination over Europe. The US being touted as an undisputed global leader has been at the expense of Europe.
While the UK continues to follow ‘his master’s voice,’ France and Germany have openly questioned/challenged US hegemony concerning issues that will primarily affect European interests. For instance, any war with Russia will first hit Europe and then the US if it escalates.
European nations’ trade with China is yet another issue of concern to the US. Notwithstanding US concerns, President Macron of France has been categorical in asserting that the current global situation will not affect trade with China.
If viewed in a territorial context, NATO is essentially a European organization controlled by the US. If the Russia-Ukraine war escalates, European nations will bear the brunt, not the US across the Atlantic.
It will have direct military and economic compulsions, which Finland will have to look into. President Macron of France is slowly but silently promoting Charles de Gaulle’s dream of moving out from US influence. His recent statement that “France does not want to become ‘Vassal State'” is a testimony.
How 31-member NATO has become stronger than the initial 12-member organization is a matter that can, at best, be left to be deliberated by NATO members themselves.
Marginalization Of The US
Chinese and Russian footprints continue to grow in Africa. To contain their influence, VPOTUS visited Tanzania, Ghana, and Zambia during the last week of March 2023.
American hypocrisy, specifically in the context of the US projecting itself as championing the cause of democracy, was elaborated upon by the opposition leader of Zambia, M’membe, during his address.
He said: “A country that has toppled so many governments in Africa and coups in other parts of the world, Killers of Patrice Lumumba, Nasser, and Muammar Gaddafi, toppled Kwame Nkrumah today, and are coming to teach us about democracy.
“A country built on brutal force, the enslavement of other human beings, the humiliation and exploitation of Africa. The plunder of Africa today is coming to teach us about democracy. If you have no respect for the dignity of others or the sovereignty of other countries, you cannot claim to be the champion of democracy.”
Despite two meetings between Trump, then POTUS, and Kim Jong-un, North Korean dictator, the US failed to convince and/or coerce a tiny nation to discontinue its nuclear weapons program. US footprints in the middle east are also dwindling.
Saudi Arabia, which was till recently one of the staunchest US allies, has now openly opposed the US on various issues.
French President Macron was on a state visit to China in the first week of April 2023. On his return, while speaking to the press on various international issues, he said that trade with China would not be affected.
However, the US will remain the biggest arms supplier globally. Together, China and Russia cannot act as a substitute in terms of quantity and quality.
Xi’s China is decidedly on a ‘dream’ journey to becoming a numero uno nation by unseating the US. However, two significant issues will thwart China’s ambitions. The first issue is China’s burning desire to annex Taiwan and reunify it with mainland China.
However, the annexation of Taiwan by force might — rather would — result in a direct confrontation with the US. The Chinese military, the navy in particular, is ill-equipped to challenge the might of the US Navy with 11 operational Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs). Strict operational appreciation of Chinese Aircraft Carriers will show that China can, at best, claim to have one operational CBG.
Much touted hypersonic anti-shipping missiles developed by China have never been used in operational conditions. Hence its potency cannot be relied upon. Direct US-China confrontation has every chance of turning into a nuclear exchange. Therefore China will move cautiously over the Taiwan issue.
During hot war conditions to annex Taiwan, the chip industry of Taiwan will act as a shield because should the chip industrial infrastructure be destroyed, China’s victory (if achieved) will actually be a strategic defeat.
The second issue is the vast gap between technology. China is still miles behind the US in key military equipment development and production domain. For instance, China is yet to develop a reliable aero engine for its fighter fleet. China’s AWACS program, in terms of numbers and technology, is in a state of infancy compared with the US.
However, China’s exports to the entire globe are its biggest strength and cannot be matched by any nation. China has added a diplomatic feather to its cap by bringing together the warring countries of Iran and Saudi Arabia. In doing so, China has ensured energy security for China for decades to come.
Many military strategists termed the break up of the USSR as a watershed in global politics. That was more than three decades ago. The nearer times the watershed year can be termed as 2008 AD, the year of the reunification of Germany.
Russia had sought assurance from the US that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. The then Secretary of State, James Baker, gave a verbal assurance to this effect to Shevardnadze, Russia’s Foreign Minister. But as always, the US decided to unilaterally alter the agreement, which has led to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Russia’s relationship with India has stood the test of time. China-Russia bonhomie in recent times might be to India’s advantage in the long term. Russia’s continued diplomatic parleys with Syria and Saudi Arabia might end hostility between these two Arab nations. If that happens, it will be a feather in the Russian diplomatic cap.
United Nation’s Role
The collapse of the League of Nations gave birth to United Nations. It has largely remained a Western nation-dominated organization. By being one of the largest ‘financers,’ the US has called the shots during the first five decades of its existence.
But from the beginning of the 21st century, China has started asserting its presence by challenging US hegemony. The role of the UN Security Council will be remembered more for the abuse of the power of ‘veto’ by the permanent members for their personal gains rather than resolving contentious global issues in world affairs.
BRICS: The Silent Revolution
Will BRICS emerge as a global organization in economic and military alliance? In 2023 the military alliance aspect might appear far-fetched, but due to the spread of NATO, Russia will be interested in promoting military alliance with other BRICS nations.
During his recent visit to China, Brazilian President Lulu has been categorical by stating that his government will ensure that relations with China are taken to higher levels. Indeed there are major hurdles to be crossed for BRICS to challenge NATO.
The Indo-China border standoff is a core issue that needs a peaceful resolution. Political and ideological differences between Brazil and Russia are yet another issue.
We are no longer living in a world of military alliances or an age of liberal democracy. After the collapse of the USSR in 1989, many strategists propagated the idea and concept of a unipolar world led by the US.
But the global picture is diametrically opposite to what was perceived in haste. Today’s world is multi-polar and more turbulent than ever, and smaller nations are calling the shots; for example, North Korea.
Propagation of democracy as the antidote to all that ails different parts of the globe cannot be imposed on other nations with varying governance models based on their social, political, and security needs. New and hitherto unthinkable alliances will usher in an entirely new international relation module among nations. Non-alignment from a position of strength might become the most powerful and new global order.
During the Cold War era, followed by the break up of the Soviet Union, the Western world, led by the US, assumed the role of governing global affairs and claimed to have become a champion of democracy. Such an approach led to arrogance, and terms viz ‘Third World’ were coined by Western intellectuals.
But the concept of a unipolar world was shortlived, and Europe is on the verge of collapsing due to a combination of economic and political crises. BREXIT was a blow to the entire of Europe. European dependence on Russian gas to survive the cold winters will, sooner than later, result in their collective capitulation.
Although India promoted the non-alignment precept during the Nehruvian era in the late 50s, it has proved to be our strongest shield against the concept of military and other alliances formed to challenge/harm the interests of other nations.
China’s continued hostility towards India emanates from the demarcation of the international border between India and China, further accentuating China’s claim of Arunachal Pradesh, which has been and is an integral part of India. It will be relevant to clearly state that China is in no position to annex Arunachal Pradesh by exercising the military option.
China, too knows this, perhaps better than the rest of the world. Not a single nation has ever supported China’s claim. India is a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, one of the biggest organizations globally in terms of GDP (35%) and population (65%).
For SCO to survive, China and India have to maintain unstable peace.
India’s role and stand towards the Russia-Ukraine war have been accepted and appreciated globally. India’s instantaneous decision to help Turkiye after the catastrophic earthquake has been admired globally.
- Gp Cpt TP Srivastava (Retd) is an ex-NDA who flew MiG-21 and 29. He is a qualified flying instructor. He commanded the MiG-21 squadron. He is a directing staff at DSSC Wellington and chief instructor at the College of Air Warfare. VIEWS PERSONAL
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