Bloc politics

Published June 27, 2022

USING the platform of the 14th BRICS Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made some interesting observations about the state of global politics, particularly the danger military alliances and blocs pose to world peace. In a clear swipe at the US and its allies, Mr Xi, addressing the virtual conclave, said that bloc-based confrontation would result in “more turbulence and insecurity” while also observing that sanctions were a “double-edged sword” that “politicise the global economy”. The Chinese leader, instead, urged BRICS member states to support “true multilateralism”. In light of the Ukraine crisis, as well as US-China tensions, specifically over the Taiwan issue, the call to reassess military alliances and bloc politics needs to be heeded seriously, if any semblance of an international rules-based order is to survive.

After the Cold War, there were expectations that the end of confrontation between the two rival blocs might bring global stability. But while the communist Warsaw Pact went quietly into the night, Nato — the West’s sword arm — is very much alive and kicking. And as the Ukraine crisis has shown, the hatreds and mistrust that marked relations between the Eastern and Western blocs are very much alive. Undoubtedly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is totally indefensible. But, from a historical perspective, Moscow undertook its military adventure after its desire to join the Western military alliance two decades ago was reportedly rebuffed, and Nato started absorbing more and more former Soviet satellites, eventually ending up at the doorstep of an insecure Russia. Elsewhere, the Western bloc has firmed up military alliances against China, such as AUKUS and the Quad. Ironically, while India sits with Russia and China in BRICS, it is also a member of the anti-China Quad. While Russia and China are hardly role models of democratic governance, their opposition to Western militarism appears justified, especially in the eyes of the Global South: Vladimir Putin undertook the Ukraine offensive after witnessing the US-led West lay waste to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The fact is that if the West forges ahead in its attempt to isolate Russia and China, both powers will push back, and the resultant confrontation will have a debilitating effect on the global economy, particularly affecting the developing world. Therefore, both de facto blocs need to back off from their maximalist positions and disengage from conflict. Expansion of the conflict in Europe, or a military dimension to US-China rivalry, bodes ill for global stability.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2022

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