by Brecht Jonkers (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 2, Sha'ban, 1443)
The conflict between Russia and the Ukrainian regime of Volodymyr Zelenski that started on February 24 may very well be the latest turning point in world history. The international character of what originated as a regional conflict in Eastern Europe, as well as the global response to it (whether to support either of the warring parties or as expression of genuine non-alignment) and the consequences of the military operation on the power balance in the world today, have arguably lifted the events of February 24 to a level comparable to 9/11 or even the 1989-1991 period.
The Russian Federation has shown that its patience in trying to “play nice” according to the rules of US-dominated international politics, has been exhausted. Moscow has demonstrated that it is more than willing to represent an alternative to the US in a way that hadn’t been seen since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Perhaps even more notable and important for the world is the influence the conflict has on international politics, global economic connections and the balance of power worldwide.
The Russian military operation in Ukraine came after eight years of Ukrainian persecution of the Russian-speaking population of the country. There were also repeated violations by Ukraine of the Minsk peace treaties that sought to resolve the conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk through dialogue. Further, there were constant Ukrainian attacks on the Donbass region that resulted in the death of at least 14,000 people.
Even if we set aside these reasons, the fact is that the looming expansion of NATO towards Ukraine was the latest in a long list of ongoing violations of the 1990 promise that US Secretary of State James Baker had made at the time. He had pledged that NATO would not move one inch eastwards if the Soviet Union agreed to the reunification of Germany. The West has decided, in typical propagandistic fashion, to claim this war came out of nowhere and was caused entirely by Russian belligerence.
The absolute hysteria that has gripped the public opinion of many NATO member states has not been seen in recent history. Expressions of Russian cultural heritage, language and history are all but banned across the west. Russian athletes and artists are banned from international competitions; chess players are barred from partaking in events, and even Russian cats don’t escape punishment. An Italian university temporarily banned lectures on Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, who incidentally has been dead since 1881.
In an effort to rewrite history, the US Space Foundation even went as far as removing the name of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, from its fundraising events. The University of Florida decided to take it a step further and removed the name of Karl Marx, a German and buried in London, from its premises, in their own words “given the current events in Ukraine”.
The unprecedented levels of Russophobia and racist propaganda, often using the trope of the ‘Asiatic hordes from the East’ that is eerily similar to Nazi propaganda, has taken much of the west in its grip. The hypocrisy is obvious when one compares the response to the conflict in Ukraine, which has amounted to trying to “cancel” Russia out of public life, to the deafening silence when western imperialist powers were massacring and destroying Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria or Yemen.
However, the consternation that any level-headed person is likely to feel at the hysterical response in the west, should not distract from one key point that will likely have huge consequences in the near future: the absolute majority of the world, especially the Global South, has categorically refused to join the imperial core against Russia. Countries that make up the vast majority of the world’s population, particularly the rising powers of the Global South, have refused to risk their economies and their populations’ well-being merely for the sake of appeasing the United States.
The People’s Republic of China in particular, has stood firm against all western pushing to drive Beijing into arms against Moscow. China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng even went as far as to call the Western sanctions against Russia “outrageous”, and called out NATO for its responsibility by saying that the “pursuit of absolute security (by NATO) precisely leads to absolute non-security.”
China has also pursued further non-dollar based economic cooperation deals with the Russian Federation, with attempts being made to integrate Russia’s System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) with China’s much larger Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) and bilateral trade being conducted in the Chinese currency yuan (or, the renminbi).
India, which is generally a pretty strong US ally in the Asian theatre and member of the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the United States, Japan and Australia, has also refused to join in the economic war against Russia. Joe Biden himself has expressed annoyance at the position of New Delhi, calling it “somewhat shaky,” and indeed India has recently even increased its import of Russian petroleum, directly undercutting US efforts of isolating Russian exports.
Pakistan also signed a major trade agreement with Russia for the import of natural gas and wheat, drawing fierce criticism from the imperial core. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan responded vigorously to the criticism of mostly western states, lashing out with the words “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves ... that whatever you say, we will do?”
But even closer into the circle of traditional US allies, there has been little enthusiasm for the kamikaze policy preferred in the corridors of the Pentagon. Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have so far not engaged in any concrete sanctions or punishing measures against Russia. Saudi Arabia has even outright refused US requests to increase oil production, which the west urgently wants in order to offset the price hikes caused by their own sanctions on Russia. This rather unexpected refusal has sent the Biden regime into overdrive trying to curry favour with Riyadh, agreeing to supply the kingdom with an increased supply of missile defence systems that are supposed to counter Yemeni retaliation strikes.
The insistence of the US and its allies to further double down on the only forms of foreign policy they really know, being aggression and sanctions, has spectacularly backfired. The European Union countries, which are greatly dependent on Russian gas imports for their energy needs, initially attempted to safeguard these imports by exempting gas from the sanctions imposed on Moscow. However, the Kremlin isn’t having any of it, and has recently demanded that a total of 48 countries that have shown themselves unfriendly to Russia, including every single EU member state, must pay for their gas imports in Russian rubles.
While the EU has responded with a lot of bellicose posturing, there isn’t all that much the western powers can do about it. It is either buying Russian gas at Russian terms, or find another supplier at very short notice, which is not possible.
Across the board, the US and its immediate subordinates are increasingly losing their grasp over the worldwide geopolitical system. Rather than having to exclusively face off against the Axis of Resistance, the hawkish and aggressive stance of the US has caused even some of its allies to question Washington’s directives. This situation is likely to be further exacerbated by Biden’s surprisingly frank admission that food shortages are to be expected in the west as a direct result of the sanctions against Russia.
Increasingly, the world order that we are living under today is moving away from the unipolar, US-dominated hegemonic system and towards a new, multipolar world order. The imperialist powers are anxiously watching as an ever increasing part of the world refuses to slavishly follow the directives of Washington, London or Brussels any longer, and instead emphasize the interests of their own country and people.
The times we are currently living in, may prove to be a key turning point in history. It is very likely that the world after February 24, 2022 will look radically different from the world we were used to. Or, as the former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev worded it: “The unipolar world has come to an end. The US is no longer the master of planet Earth.”