The conflict in Europe will increasingly become local and of direct interest to its main participants. To the same extent, the rest of the world will move precisely towards non-participation in one way or another, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.
The position taken by most countries in the world in relation to the conflict between Russia and the West reveals that humanity is now much more united and adaptive, even when facing such major challenges, than we might have thought just recently. This refutes the existing notion that the US plays the central role in world affairs and that it continues to make any issue it faces similarly important for the rest of the world and capable of dividing it. At the same time, Russia itself should not think that by being on the right side of history, it automatically secures the support of the majority of states for itself — we still have to fight for this. It would be reckless to think that the refusal of most of the world’s countries, which make up 85 percent of the world’s population, to join the West’s economic war against Russia indicates that they support everything Russia does.
Six months after the start of the Special Military Operation, the dynamics of international attitudes towards the military-political conflict around Ukraine and its participants reflect that most countries of the international community are increasingly striving to distance themselves from expressing a position, but at the same time benefit from the conflict between Russia and the West. The exception is China, whose policy increasingly reflects its pro-Russian orientation and, as its conflict with the United States grows, shows the real depth of mutual trust between Moscow and Beijing. However, these relations are derived from the development of the two countries over the past 20 years and the objective coincidence of their approaches to the main systemic problems — mutual support is not directly associated with the crisis in Europe.
Today, of course, it is still too early to judge what the international order will be like in the future, when the West will have to admit its historic defeat in the struggle to maintain global dominance. It will be formed gradually, as the leading powers determine, by their often dangerous actions, the limits of their power capabilities and the scope of what is permitted. This process, given the irrationality of a major all-out war and the magnitude of long-standing problems, is likely to take much longer than previous episodes of radical change in the international order based on sovereign states. Now we are witnessing only one of the first stages of a lengthy global political reorganisation. After all, we are talking, in fact, about the end of a period that has lasted several hundred years.
But even at this stage, we can see some signs of the behaviour of powers that have objective reasons, and therefore become systemic factors in the development of all international politics.
The flagship of such adaptation in our time, of course, is India, one of the largest powers in terms of population, which has very serious ambitions regarding its own role in the world. So far, this country has not reached the level of development in terms of the economy, military sphere and human potential that would allow us to speak of it as a truly great power. However, at the same time, India is the real leader of that majority, which has absolutely no intention of allowing itself to be divided into opposing camps or to become a resource base for one of the rival great powers like America, Russia or China. India has consistently maintained business relations with Moscow and has become one of Russia’s largest foreign trade partners in recent months. The fact that New Delhi’s position is not anti-Russian is constantly emphasised by Indian officials. The restraint in terms of areas of cooperation with Russia is connected only with the reasonable fear of Indian business to be under reprisals from the United States.
India is followed by most of the developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We see, in particular, that six months into the crisis in relations between Russia and the West developed into a state of military-political clash, the number of countries ready to even verbally support the United States in their fight against Moscow has decreased by more than half. A few days ago, observers noted an attempt to gather support from the UN countries for a new statement condemning Russia’s activity in Ukraine. While during the voting in the UN General Assembly in March of this year, a resolution similar in content was supported by more than 140 countries, now only 58 have contributed their signatures, of which 30 are formal members of the NATO military alliance led by the United States, and several more are associated with Washington through bilateral defence treaties.
Thus, more than two-thirds of the entire international community will actively withdraw from declaring their position on European affairs. Of course, this is partly the result of the work of Russian and Chinese diplomacy, constantly pointing out that US policy is the real cause of the conflict in Europe.
For the United States itself, the reduction in its ability to win over to its side has led it to adopt a strategy of intimidation and placing pressure on independent members of the international community. However, this strategy can no longer be successful — even if Washington has a colossal repressive machine, the transformation of all its international activities into the control of the implementation of “sanctions” will make such a policy completely ineffective. Although, of course, we cannot rule out such a scenario. As a result, more and more countries will cooperate equally with Russia and the West, and the pace of this cooperation will depend on the ability to get something from these two adversaries.
In turn, the conflict in Europe will increasingly become local and of direct interest to its main participants. To the same extent, the rest of the world will move precisely towards non-participation in one way or another. For Russia, this means the need to remain open and able to offer developing countries what they need — energy or other goods, as well as science and education. Russia has absolutely no need to strive to lure anyone into its camp in the armed struggle for its interests and values — this is exactly what most countries of the world want to avoid. In the event that the trend we have noted here really continues and becomes a more and more determining international policy, we can remain relatively calm — the split of the world into opposing camps, which is an important condition for the outbreak of a general war, will be avoided.