Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Integration of the West: Opportunities and Limitations

The hasty decisions to join NATO recently adopted by Helsinki and Stockholm are perhaps the most vivid example of the emerging trend towards the consolidation of a collective West, with other evidence of this new unity among Western countries after February 24, 2022. Seen enough.

For example, unprecedented sanctions against Moscow were agreed with astonishing speed, such as programs for military and economic aid to Ukraine, on which neither has a historical precedent to build.

Or, for example, a coordinated attack on Russia in major international organizations ranging from the UN Security Council and APEC to the Council of Europe and the Arctic Council, as well as joint pressure on countries of the global south, from Brazil to India. has not yet fully defined its position on the Ukrainian issue.

At the same time, Russia’s Special Operations, which has become a powerful catalyst for centripetal processes in the West, still cannot be considered the main—by ​​far alone—agent of these changes. We will remember such milestone events as the establishment of the tripartite politico-military alliance AUKUS, the deepening institutionalization of the quadrilateral QUAD Security Dialogue, the Grand Summit of Democracies hosted by Washington (all seen last year), the United Efforts in more traditional forms of dialogue between major Western powers like NATO summits and the G7 apex, not to mention activism.

If we look at the first months of 2020 as a starting point, when the coronavirus pandemic suddenly awakened the most archaic reflections of national arrogance in the West, at some point the general values ​​of the Euro-Atlantic are questioned, we must admit That’s a lot changed in two years. The Collective West has successfully learned lessons from its recent difficulties, mobilized itself rapidly, put aside the squabbles and strife of previous decades, and stood united against common adversaries and competitors.

Biden administration, as much as 46th The president himself, who does not deserve the derogatory and degrading description that glib media has liberally labeled him, has played a major role in the ongoing consolidation of the West. Already at the time of his presidential campaign, the Democratic aspirant for the US presidency talked a lot about the task of “reconnecting the West” as one of the top priorities of his future foreign policy. In doing so, he always promised that the new US leadership would take into account the position, interests and priorities of Washington’s allies as much as possible.

Certainly, the Democratic administration has not always delivered on this promise. For example, the decision to hastily withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in late summer 2021 without prior consultation with allies legitimately caused discontent that later escalated to deaf murmurs. It was not possible to line up European allies against Beijing, as evidenced by rare and somewhat vague references to China in the final communiqué of the NATO summit held in Brussels in June 2021.

In this sense, Russia’s special military operation was a long-awaited and literally invaluable gift to Washington, prompting American strategists to shift the role of the main global villain and integrator of the West away from the far-right and little-understood Beijing. Allowed, was giving. It is, for Moscow, up close and painfully familiar from the Cold War era. The Special Operations provided an opportunity to fix not only immediate tasks, but also priority forms working toward a new consolidation of the West. There is no doubt that the White House will try to make the most of this gift of fate.

First, the consolidation of Western countries goes through a policy of strengthening military-political and military-technical unity, as well as a revived and revived NATO and other multilateral formats, as well as through the framework of bilateral agreements. between the United States and its main partners. The combined military budgets and expenditures of NATO member states already account for more than half of global defense spending, and this share will only increase in the near future. The US military-industrial complex may celebrate victory over its foreign competitors, as the US consolidates its dominant position in world arms markets, while the idea of ​​the EU’s strategic autonomy from NATO may have to be postponed until better times.

In the short term, vigorous efforts will be made to resolve or reduce trade and economic conflicts within the West, primarily between the United States and the European Union. For example, the Biden administration lifted some of Donald Trump’s import duties on European steel and aluminum last October. We can assume that the long-promised synchronization of export controls with respect to third countries will happen soon. The nearly endless conflict between Boeing and Airbus, as well as other high-profile trade disputes that undermine transatlantic unity, will probably come to a close.

Priorities in cooperation between Western countries will increasingly shift to R&D. We will see the emergence of a giant multilateral consortium perhaps in the form of public-private partnerships in key areas of ICT, artificial intelligence, space and biotechnology. Naturally, Russia will no longer be allowed to enter any of these areas, while a difficult and uncompromising battle will be fought with China in all these areas.

A strong and confident collective West will strive hard to build a common stance on key global development issues such as climate change, energy transition, Internet governance and standards of global digitization, food security and new pandemics, cross-border measures. Migration, gender and race issues. It is possible that many of the global development problems will be led by the EU rather than the US. In any case, Western politicians, opinion leaders and experts will be doubly determined to apply their agenda to the rest of the world in all of these areas.

The consolidation of the Western world could hardly have happened without an effort to push its borders beyond the “historic West”. We will see a relentless fight for the souls of countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico. The West will continue to please Turkey, build bridges with Venezuela, try to negotiate with Iran, etc. There will inevitably be a contradiction between the notions of declared ideological correctness and political justification, which will often be resolved in favor of the latter, as has been the case repeatedly in the past. We can assume that the main dividing line in world politics will, for strategic reasons, be drawn by Western leaders not between democracy and autocracy, but between “responsible” and “irresponsible” actors on the world stage.

If the West’s consolidation continues in the years to come, it will inevitably push back the prospect of a mature multipolar world for a long time.

Essentially, it is proposed to recreate an international system based on the interaction of the world core (west) with the world periphery (non-west), rather than a multipolar world emerging. However, it is believed that such a division would not lead to a classic bipolar world, as it did not at the beginning of the century, as the global periphery would fail or be reluctant to unite against the West. In contrast, major non-Western countries including China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria will have to compete with each other for the most favorable terms for their subsequent entry into the global core.

In this renewed unipolarity, Russia will be thrown back to the position it was in 30 years ago, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Moscow will find itself in an even more difficult position, as it will no longer receive the credit of trust from the West, as it was in the 1990s. Accordingly, the pressure on Moscow will be more difficult, and the possible political and economic rewards for good behavior of Russia will be more modest and deferred.

How realistic is this scenario for the future of the international order? The ongoing consolidation of the West seems to have its limits. First, the economic dimension, since the interests of the United States, the European Union and the developed countries of East Asia are largely skewed. For example, the problem of American agricultural exports to Europe is unlikely to find a definitive solution, as is the issue of exports of European cars and their parts to the United States. The dollar and euro will continue to compete in global financial markets, and this competition is likely to intensify as other currencies consolidate their international positions.

What remains suspicious, however, is a possible synchronization of political cycles in different countries of the collective West. While the Left continues to rise in Northern Europe, the Right is likely to win the US midterm election in November. It could be argued that the differences between the Anglo-Saxon and continental European models of socio-economic development are becoming increasingly important rather than eroding.

The political contradictions within the collective West are going nowhere. It is one thing to stand united in the midst of an acute security crisis against a familiar adversary such as an economically unimportant Moscow, and quite another to be prepared to wage a long and exhausting battle against an economic superpower like China. Nor is there an absolute consensus within the West on the best strategy for India, let alone a stand on specific issues of crisis management in the Middle East and North Africa. It is hard to assume that the US and the EU can achieve unity on the problem of expanding economic aid from the global north to the global south.

A further change from centripetal to centrifugal tendencies in the West is only a matter of time. Such a change could be triggered by the new Trump victory in the US elections in the fall of 2024 or the coming to power of a right-wing populist such as Marine Le Pen in a major European country. Another strategic breakdown could be the US-Chinese conflict over Taiwan or the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

In any case, the change in trends will not happen soon. Moscow must prepare for a long-term standoff with a consolidated West that has substantial political power and a willingness to counter any disjointed demarcation in its ranks. And this means that any most limited agreement with the West will have to be coordinated with Washington, as it did during the “unipolar moment” a quarter century ago.

Our partner RIAC . on behalf of

Nation World News Desk
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