Elijah J. Magnier
There is a lot of speculation about the birth of a “new world order” from the womb of the battle in Ukraine between America and Russia. The Middle East, Asia and Africa are awaiting the results of this battle, its implications and what will be the outcome to form new alliances once the dust has settled. A new world will inevitably be born after long labours and punctuated by direct wars, countries’ occupations, proxy wars and illegal unilateral sanctions which have exhausted the world’s population. What will the “New World Order” look like, and will it be better or worse than the current one?
If and when the “new world order” emerges, it is expected to challenge the current order that the US led and had taken control of since 1990, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced Perestroika (means “reconstruction” in Russian). The US world order and unilateral hegemony were dominant until September 2015, when President Vladimir Putin decided to fight the battle for Russia’s return to the international arena through the Syrian war and the presence of Russian troops on the battlefield. Syria was not an ordinary battlefield but a territory where the US decided to create a failed state that would prevent Russia’s access to the Mediterranean through its naval base in the Syrian harbour of Tartous.
It was far from a coincidence that the US moved to consolidate its position in the Middle East before Russia’s return and created a coalition with dozens of western states to occupy Afghanistan, Iraq, and lastly, remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. The US objectives imposed Moscow’s and Washington’s troops to be dangerously present in a tiny geographic area with contradictory goals. The Russian upper hand in offering adequate support to Assad and regaining most of the Syrian “useful territory” upset the anti-Russian strategic plans of the US. European states were and still are, involved as a secondary force in the US wars of dominance and occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, with little return for the continent.
Europe has witnessed great ancient civilisations, the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman eras. The Portuguese, the Spaniards, the British, the Austro-Hungarians, and the French created their empires, conquered considerable parts of the world, and seized significant wealth. The European continent fought hundreds of wars through the ages until the First World War, known as the Great War of 1914. Britain, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan, and the US (which entered in 1917, 6 months before its end) fought against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. A few European states and Russia found themselves in one trench (with the US) against the other enemy alliance. Britain’s significant casualties lost 994 thousand people but came second to Russia, which lost 3 million and 300 thousand people. The Russian and European blood mixed on the continent’s soil, fighting for freedom.
In World War II, Russia also had the largest share of deaths (24 million military and civilians) and fought alongside Europe, especially Britain, against Nazi Germany. The US entered the war through the economic gate. Indeed, President Franklin Roosevelt obtained from Congress an exceptional power of the “Lend-Lease” Act rather than sell war supplies at the price it deemed appropriate to support the war effort. Five years after the war’s end, Europe repaid the sums to the last penny. It finished the previously engaged payments between 2006 and 2015.
America had been waiting for an adequate opportunity to return to the European continent to establish itself for decades. Europe represented about a third of the world’s population at that time. WWII stimulated the faltering US economy – which suffered from the Great Depression caused by the stock market crash in 1929 – by creating 17 million jobs, which helped the US economy grow from $88.6 billion in 1939 to 135 billion in 1944. War was a profitable geopolitical and business growth for the US economy, a doctrine and practice that the US adopted for many decades after WWII. However, the war results in the Soviet Union were different from those of America. Russia lost more than 10% of its population, 70% of its industrial facilities, and 50% of its buildings and real estate.
The US found itself cooperating with the Soviet Union – which Washington had no affection for – to defeat Adolf Hitler and his expansionist plans. The US shared with Europe many values, but Washington was interested in the European theatre to confront the Soviet Union’s expansion. It was necessary to create a breach between European states and the Soviet Union.
For this purpose, America created the Marshall Plan, announced in 1947, to form an American-European front and cooperation under the title of reconstruction and operation of the European economy and factories. The Marshal plan also ensured a mutual and common security pact, arming Europe with American weapons, stopping Soviet influence in Europe and achieving American national goals.
With the outbreak of the Cold War after World War II, the United States experienced tremendous economic growth. The war brought back prosperity, and in the post-war period, the United States cemented its position as the wealthiest country in the world.
America began its media and propaganda war and the armament and nuclear race in the Cold War phase. However, 1991 marked the end of the cold war and the disintegration of the Soviet economy to its lowest economic level leading to Perestroika. The US plans of dominance did not start in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union, as researchers may recall. It did not emerge during the Cold War after World War II. It began on the 7th of December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked the US naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, and the US decided to send troops to land in Europe.
Perestroika gave America absolute power over the world due to the absence of other forces facing it, which fit Washington’s expansionist policy. America has considered that Russia will return one day to the international arena again due to its capabilities, history, natural resources, military strength, productivity and expertise in many fields. Russia could be an attractive alternative for those challenging the US hegemony, and Washington was aware of this threat.
Therefore, the goal of the United States has focused on delaying Russia’s return to the international arena and the potential race on world hegemony. It was believed that Russia would not fully recover its economy and military capabilities until around 2025-2030. The West was surprised that Russia’s return ahead of schedule, with a strong economy and new weapons capabilities, posed an obstacle to Western goals of subjugating China and maintaining U.S. unilateralism in the world.
Washington had to aim first to clip Moscow’s wings and weaken it, given China’s strategic depth. Russia became a major international player and enjoyed huge economic contracts with Europe, a continent where the level of energy and trade exchange reached over $190 billion per year. Russia was able to weave strategic relations with the countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and was prepared to return to the international arena that the US had always considered among its spheres of influence.
The Americans believed that it was possible to corner the Kremlin when, in 2008, NATO announced its readiness to prepare Ukraine and Georgia to become part of the Organization. This move is believed to be a response to President Vladimir Putin’s Munich security briefing a year earlier in his 2007 Munich speech, when he said that Russia was back and that the unipolar system would no longer be acceptable. “Nobody feels safe because nobody feels that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them,” Putin said, alluding to the many wars the U.S. has fought in violation of international law.
“We believe that the expansion of NATO to the east is a mistake and a serious mistake,” Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet Russian president, said at a 1997 press conference with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Helsinki, where the two signed a declaration on arms control.
The U.S. found in Putin a president determined to stop the expansion of NATO, which aims to besiege and confront Russia with EU-US troops and American nuclear bombs scattered on European soil. America has 150 nukes in Europe and Turkey aimed at Russia because Europe has no enemies and France and the UK already have nukes. Putin wants the US to keep its verbal promise that two secretaries of state (James Baker and Warren Christopher) offered two Russian presidents (Michael Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin) not to expand NATO and to keep its membership to 12 and not 30 as it has reached today.
The hatred of American Democratic leaders (mainly President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and President Joe Biden, to name but a few) for President Vladimir Putin has overshadowed the U.S.-Russia relationship. American officials failed to notice that the Russian bear had developed claws with the capacity and strength to respond and inflict pain on its opponents in the event of a conflict. The whole world began to sense Russia’s power, its capabilities and, above all, its alliances in Asia and the rest of the world. In fact, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and the West were the cause of great pain for the US, the West and the world economy, including Russia. The Russian economy was the target, but it seems that the West has imposed sanctions on itself as well and is hurting its economy.
The US President blames – but it looks like he won’t get away with blaming Putin for inflation – Russia’s war on Ukraine for being behind rising prices in the US, forcing Biden to use 60 million barrels of oil reserves to calm the panicked domestic market. This decision offers evidence of US economic distress, followed by the EU due to its sanctions against Russia. Biden did not appreciate President Putin’s reaction when the Ruble regained its original value within a few weeks, as before the sanctions.
The United States itself has given the green light to begin the long journey of eliminating its unilateralism. Its gradual decay from 32 years of world leadership began when Iran bombed the US base at Ayn al-Assad, then the US left Afghanistan, attacked Iraq and asked to leave. Finally, Russia challenged NATO and the US in Ukraine. This American decadence was triggered when they forced Russia to choose between a war against Ukraine or allowing NATO bases in Ukraine and Georgia, believing that Putin would have no good options and whatever he decided, he would be the biggest loser. In fact, Putin had the choice of seeing Ukrainian forces attacking Crimea to reclaim it, embarrassing the Russian state, having a NATO base on Russia’s borders, or declaring war. The US has openly said that its goal is to inflict the most significant damage possible on the Russians in Ukraine, not to defeat them.
However, early results seem to indicate that Ukraine will no longer join NATO and that Georgia has received the message loud and clear to stay away from the US-led alliance. Ukraine has lost strategic territories, and NATO has lost its ability to establish its bases in any country that Russia considers within its circle of existential danger. Russia has obtained an agreement from Ukraine to remain neutral and refrain from having nuclear or strategic missiles on its territory. It is only a matter of time before the Donbas province falls under Russia’s control, including Mariupol in the south, which will provide a land route between Crimea and Russia.
The Ruble seems to be on its way to becoming an international currency. Europe is gradually separating from its Russian partner, which fought by its side in the two world wars and has become one of the most important economic partners. Europe has decided to buy American gas, which is 30 percent more expensive than Russian gas, and will have to build a dedicated platform to receive and equip itself for liquefied gas. The US won the isolation of the European continent from Russia, but opened the door for Moscow to have access to the rest of the world, eager to see the US hegemony more fragile.
Five percent (US) of the world’s population may be able to lead the twelve percent of wealthy European states (from 22 percent in 1950 to 12 percent of the world’s population in 2020). However, the US can no longer spread its dominance over rising Asia, representing 60% of the world’s population, particularly with China as an economic superpower left with Russia, not the US. The American superpower is not that big a thing, and the Russian superpower does not have all the elements to retain its title. Russia-Pakistan-India-Iran-China and the other BRICS countries represent solid economic cooperation that is difficult for the US-EU to break or challenge.
China, Africa and other Middle Eastern countries are waiting for the final results of the US-Russia battle taking place in Ukraine to expand their alliances without necessarily becoming anti-Western. The multipolar world is born, but the question remains: How long will America be able to maintain its control over Europe? And will European states react to the loss of their natural Russian ally, or is it already too late for that?
Elijah J Magnier is a veteran war correspondent and senior political risk analyst with more than three decades of experience.