IndiaScope: Disquiet and Disarray in World Politics
One doesn’t want to be all doom and gloom, but the state of world affairs is troubling. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine continues—and the destruction, loss of life, and displacement is unimaginable. Russia is not backing down, and NATO continues to support Ukraine with weapons worth billions of dollars, hoping to change the war’s outcome.
America’s stated policy, according to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, is now to “see Russia weakened.” This is an added goal to the original goal of helping Ukraine retain its sovereignty. But, even with Russia’s heavy losses in this war, to get to a weakened or defeated Russia could take months or years. In the meantime, will there be a Ukraine left? Over 5 million have already fled and another 5 million are internally displaced.
The wild card? If Russia eventually stands on the brink of ignominious defeat, Putin has already openly warned that everything—and that means a nuclear strike—is on the table. A best case scenario will be that Ukraine and the West somehow “win” without the war going nuclear. That outcome would still involve a shelled and devastated Ukraine and a disintegrating, unpredictable and dangerous Russia, with or without Putin. An apparent end-game is missing for the West. American/NATO policy implications need to be more clearly articulated and end goals openly stated. The whole world’s security is at stake.
Currently, a majority of Americans and Europeans support increasing aid and weapons to Ukraine in order to help them fight and win. Of course, we want aggression to be defeated! However, Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of direct American military action. But the material, information, and weapons provided by the West are being translated by Russia as exactly that. Acts of aggression—military action, if you will. Even U.S. officials seem to endorse this, openly saying, for instance, that their active intelligence led to the sinking of the flagship vessel, the Moskva. So, in a sense, we are already at war. A war where nuclear weapons may be used by a desperate Putin.
The military-industrial complex has never known a war it didn’t like, and they are all in. But in this war, we have the added specter of the left, those opposed to the U.S.’s involvement in global conflict over the years, joining hands with the hawkish right—as long as the U.S. is not involved militarily. Which, of course, cannot be guaranteed if there is continued escalation.
The most ardent opposition to U.S. involvement continues to come from the global south. The Arab world, Africa, and much of Asia including India sees this not just as Russian aggression, but as proof of continued American adventurism in world politics. Not only have many leaders in this part of the world been careful about not condemning Russia, but their citizens are flooding social media with anti-American resentment at the economic hardships unleashed.
Sanctioning, isolating, and weakening Russia is coming at a cost to the world. As raw materials become scarce and supply chains are further disrupted, inflation is soaring in many countries. In the U.S., the stock market is in a correction and the housing market is in danger. Germany and Europe are headed towards recession. Sri Lanka is on the brink of default and bankruptcy. Granted, much of Sri Lanka’s woes fall on the Rajapaksa clan who has bled the country dry. But the sudden disruption of world markets provided the impetus for sparking the country’s current crisis. The poorest African countries will be facing devastating food shortages. In the midst of this global upheaval, some countries are breaking with U.S. and E.U. strictures and flouting sanctions. India is bargaining for even cheaper oil purchases from Russia, and has categorically rejected U.S. pressure to cut off ties. And China, of course, is still quietly supporting Russia.
In October, the G-20 will meet in Bali, Indonesia. Despite U.S. and European displeasure, Russia has not been disinvited, and Putin has already confirmed his attendance. If he goes, will Biden stay home? Will the current coalition of the Western alliance also boycott the summit? If they do, will the countries who do attend—India, China, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey—represent the beginnings of yet another shift in power in our multi-polar world? In trying to signal a newly robust American-led era in world politics, has the American/ Western coalition brought about the beginning of the end of its dominance?
Tinaz Pavri is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Spelman College, Atlanta. A recipient of the Donald Wells Award from the Georgia Political Science Association, she’s the author of the memoir Bombay in the Age of Disco: City, Community, Life.
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