By Maj Gen Sudhakar Jee
Global politics has historically been dominated by super-powers. Being at the peak of its power in the 1990s, the United States, in recent years, has exposed its signs of declining unilateralism. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ‘a NATO ally’, on February 24, 2022, has not only challenged the post-Soviet security architecture of Europe but has also presented one of the turning points of 21st Century geopolitics as a sharp manifestation of the changing global order.
Therefore, the current global strategic environment, primarily driven by the war in Ukraine, also suggests that the great powers of the world, after a brief period of the ‘unipolarity’ of the US led world, are in competition with each other to maximize their power in the emerging world order. It is anyone’s guess as to how it would pan out.
Ukraine question for Russia
There are deep cultural, economic, and political bonds between Russia and Ukraine making Ukraine central to Russia’s identity and vision for itself in the world. The major events leading to launching of a military campaign against Ukraine includes the culmination of a long history of Russian attempts to limit NATO expansion contrary to the assurances.
Russia’s multiple proposals, since the late 1990s, were consistently dismissed by Western allies. Russian frustration grew with each new state joining NATO. Multiple developments and increased military cooperation between Ukraine, NATO and the US at Russia’s doorstep triggered alarm.
Nobody can say when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end – or how, as neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians are yet ready to lay down their arms.
End of the unipolar world
With Russian President Vladimir Putin having ended the global “interregnum,” the post-cold-war unipolar system is now transforming into a poly-centric one. It makes the world order more complex and less predictable with hybrid threats as they are difficult to identify and predict.
The changing Transatlantic ties are at the core of the fundamental restructuring of the global order in the wake of the Russia–Ukraine war.The result has been an unprecedented scale and speed of recalibration of transatlantic relations catapulted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Now, amid geopolitical shifts, various groupings, and alliances are responding.
As a member of BRICS and G-8, Russia softened the contradictions in G-20. Today, the purely western G-7 and BRICS that represent the rest of the world, acting as two opposite poles.
The war has prompted greater EU efforts to improve military capabilities and strengthen the NATO-EU partnership. It has further energized NATO and resulted in its enlargement by at least two additional members awaiting ratification.
The war in Ukraine has further accelerated Russia’s turn towards Asia with potential consequences of altering geo-politics. Russia, and China continue to draw closer together as part of Russia’s turn to Asia. However, the Caucasus and Central Asia region haven’t experienced any contours.
Concern over China
A constellation of US-led democracies, bound closer by shared concerns over China now has the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and Australia-United Kingdom-United States ( AUKUS), the two American-led clubs intended to deal with China’s rise.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), formed in 1996, has since expanded to eight states and is the world’s largest regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, covering approximately 60 percent of the area of Eurasia, 40 percent of the world population, and more than 30 percent of global GDP.
China has taken some notable steps towards accelerating the internationalization of Yuan. There is an urgent need for the BRICS members and other developing nations to create a basket of currencies that would be more democratic.
Fading charm of dollar
The growing US corporate and public debt since 2012 poses a significant threat to the stability of the economies of the other countries including emerging markets. This makes the task of internationalizing the currencies of the BRICS countries and the formation of a poly-centric world monetary system even more urgent.
Moreover, the US sanctions are pushing China to develop a payment system alternative to SWIFT that uses the dollar for calculations. The PRC has developed the Cross-border Interbank Payment System (CIPS), which Iran has also joined. Further, cooperation with other countries for settlements without the dollar is expanding world over.
The new price cap of $60 on Russian oil imposed by the G-7 nations has compelled the Russian sellers to cut down the price to lure the Asian market. India and China have become the largest buyers of Russian oil benefitting from the deals that have widened to $32-35 per barrel .
Moreover, the Ukraine war and the West’s collective pursuit to punish Russia has driven the giant bear deeper into the embrace of the Chinese dragon. The exponential rise in China’s Comprehensive National Power (CNP) over the last three decades has made it more assertive and expansionist seeking undiluted regional hegemony and power parity with the US at the global level.
India and the new world order
India’s public neutrality toward the Russian invasion is driven fundamentally by its concerns vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. New Delhi believes that preserving its friendship with Moscow will help to prevent deepening Russian ties with China and to limit Russian temptations to build new strategic ties with Pakistan.
Ukraine has been a preferred destination for Indian students for higher studies. Almost 20,000, the largest number in Ukraine from any one country in the world, were evacuated through “Operation Ganga”.
US sanctions on Russia, as has been widely noted, are likely to have serious implications for India’s defense supplies with more than 60 percent of Indiaʼs defense equipment of Russian origin. There are many high tech areas of cooperation with Russia, including nuclear energy, space, and the joint production of certain weapon systems such as the BrahMos missile and nuclear submarine.
Essentially, India’s entire defense supply chain has become vulnerable to interruptions under the new sanctions regime. Although India has begun to diversify its arms purchases away from Russia during the last two decades, Russia still remains a critical—and, in fact, a highly desirable —source of weapons for India.
The war in Ukraine has strained the Indian economy but it has also brought opportunity to India’s way.
India has gone in for currency swapping with oil exporting countries and others increasing in numbers, so as to reduce the burden on the forex reserve.
A multipolar international order is in the interest of India as that would allow it to maneuver between several and diverse poles, exploiting their differences depending on the issue areas, to secure gains for itself while avoiding permanent alignments with any.
Maj. Gen. Sudhakar Jee, VSM, is a former colonel of the Mahar Regiment who superannuated in 2020 after more than 37 years of active service. He has commanded troops in varied terrain, climate, and conflict zones. Currently, he is pursuing a doctoral thesis on the India-China border dispute.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times