“In Cold War terms… you have the vast majority of the rest of the world in total opposition to what [Putin] fact… It will be a cold day for Russia,” US President Joe Biden observed at a February 24 press conference shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. But in the days that followed, international reactions did not lead to a universal denunciation of Moscow.
The two major Asian nations, China and India, did not strongly condemn the Russian attack, nor did major African nations like Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.
Brazil also dithered until it succumbed to US pressure to vote in favor of the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the Russian invasion on February 25. condemnation and most just called for an end to the violence and a resumption of negotiations.
All of this begs the question, why? Why have the economically and strategically unified and dominant Western nations failed to obtain an unequivocal universal denunciation of what is clearly a flagrant violation of international law?
The short answer: maybe it has less to do with Ukraine and more to do with America. Nations fear and suspect that they are being drawn into another Cold War confrontation between the United States and Russia. Kiev may be the victim and Moscow the aggressor, but in the eyes of many Washington is not entirely innocent in all of this.
As the self-proclaimed “world policeman”, the United States is accused or at least perceived of interfering in the internal affairs of other states under various pretexts, including in Russia and China.
It is also accused of double standards when it comes to aggression, occupation and violations of international law – one for allies and another for others, just as was the case during the Cold War.
This war may have been cold in the north, but it was hot in the global south, where Moscow and Washington engaged in proxy conflicts to advance their interests, whatever the cost.
A second Cold War would be just as bad, if not worse, if today’s interconnected and interdependent world became deeply polarized between the West and NATO on one side, and Russia and China on the other – no only for individual states, but for humanity as a whole.
Since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, most states have diversified their economic and military relations with world powers and prefer not to choose between Russia and the United States or between the EU and China. .
Many countries are also looking out for their own interests amid geopolitical polarization, and some are dependent on Russia for wheat, energy and military hardware or China for investment, loans and trade.
And yet, for decades, the United States has repeatedly asked nations to stand by it in times of crisis or pay the price. “You are either with us or against us,” warned US President George W Bush on the eve of his “global war on terror” following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
And soon after the United States designated Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the global “axis of evil” and prepared to invade Iraq, it demanded that nations take their party or incur his wrath.
The following decade, Washington ratcheted up the pressure on China and demanded that all of its trading partners support it or suffer the consequences.
The Trump administration even went so far as to warn members of the United Nations that it was “taking the names” of those who voted in favor of a resolution condemning its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
As the United States declines, China rises and Russia comes back strong, the coercive tone of the United States has become rather strange, tired and desperate, urging countries to keep their options open.
States no longer trust Washington to help, protect or defend them, not after its humiliation in Afghanistan and its defeat in Iraq; not after its mistakes in Syria, Yemen, Libya and other trouble spots around the world; and certainly not after inciting Ukraine to leave it at the mercy of Russian military power.
The world has also lost its innocence over the past few decades and no longer adheres to Washington’s lofty slogans of freedom and democracy, as both are under attack in America itself.
When the invasion of Ukraine began, Biden was quick to assure American society that they would not have to fight, suffer, or even pay more for gas. Or, as one observer sardonically put it, “America is about to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian soldier.”
It is too early to tell whether such international skepticism will lead to an initiative similar to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which was joined by more than 100 nations during the Cold War. But what is clear is that today’s global challenges require less polarization and more cooperation.
A second Cold War will certainly hamper urgent international efforts to combat climate change, hamper essential coordination to deal with pandemics, and hamper essential global cooperation to ensure food security and eradicate poverty and disease.
A second cold war will lead to another arms race and bring the world closer to a nuclear confrontation. Indeed, the nuclear annihilation of humanity is “just an impulsive tantrum away,” in the words of a recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
In short, a second cold war will cause terrible human suffering, economic decline and global conflict with incalculable consequences.
Yet while Washington is intent on punishing Russia for its warmongering and aggression, it hopes or perhaps foresees Ukraine becoming Russia’s Afghan-like nightmare. Some believe this is Biden’s “Truman moment,” to pursue a “containment strategy” toward Russia, as his predecessor did 75 years ago.
But the way forward in Europe cannot be the way back. And the scenarios before us should not be limited to war: a protracted cold war or a devastating nuclear war. In fact, as I write these words, Putin has put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert after a joint NATO statement was deemed threatening.
The international community is overwhelmingly in favor of Ukraine regaining its sovereignty, albeit as a buffer state between Russia and NATO countries, and must do everything to achieve an immediate ceasefire , supporting the diplomatic process and ultimately pushing for dialogue between the West and Russia. on the future security of Europe.
Yes, the Russian invasion demands a tough response, but it should be a response that opens the door to peace. The West has no right to sacrifice Ukraine on the altar of a new cold war.