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War between Russia and Ukraine is making multilateralism a reality

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By: Aditya Vashisht

It has been a month since Russia decided to invade Ukraine and thus unleashed an attack which is unprecedented since the Second World War. A lot of Ukrainians are facing a magnanimous turn which their lives have taken and are now staring at the prospect of beginning it anew. But the turn in fortunes isn’t just for Ukraine, as it involves Russia, Asia and gradually the whole world.

Whether or not there is an open conflict between the Western allies and Russia, one thing which has made itself felt is that the world could witness the resurgence of the Cold War like relations where proxies and threatening rhetoric have been the optimum ways to trump one’s adversary. Russia had already been engaging in provocative actions, trying to counter the West in nearly every region and it seemed that these had to boil down to a brazen display of military prowess by Putin, whose war it actually is.

So long as Vladimir Putin sits in the Kremlin, hostilities with the West aren’t going to subside. The decision to invade Ukraine and the unexpected resistance offered by the Ukrainians has left Vladimir Putin with no option but to now compromise quietly and then maintain his power through weeding out contrary influences and engage in raking-up anti-Western sentiment throughout the whole of Russia. Reports are already coming in of the majority of Russians supporting the war and it wouldn’t be difficult to convert it into anti-Western feelings which would be a clever move by Putin in order to save face and cover up the apparent failure of the Russian military machinery.

But would Russia come out of this conflict unscathed? The answer is absolutely not. Russia’s position in the international sphere would surely take a hit and it would certainly become more dependent on countries like Turkey, the Middle-Eastern powers, its African allies, India and lastly, China. If anyone asks that which nation is the real benefactor of the whole situation, it has to be Beijing, who at first was itself anxious about the success of the Russian invasion which might have laid a successful precedent for its own intended invasion of Taiwan, but a concern for the nature of its foreign policy as well as its relations has compelled it to stick to a neutral approach, in which calls for a diplomatic solution are accompanied with the criticism of NATO’s stance.

China is fully aware of the advantage it could gain by being largely neutral since not only it would mean the weakening of a potential adversary in Russia, but it would also pave the way for it to become the leading competitor to the West and it has in every way the capability to be so. As is comprehended, Russia is good in muscle but when it comes to brain-power, Beijing far outstrips Moscow and as such they complimented each other inevitably. Being a party to the resolution of the conflict would increase China’s prestige and it would also give it leverage over Russia and who knows that the subsequent rise in Chinese influence and power might enable it to execute its own long standing desire to bring Taiwan under its fold?

But China’s rise would not be alone and there are high probabilities that it would countered by India which itself could turn out to be a more subtle power which nonetheless enjoys the goodwill of the West and its allies. India has been already touted to become the next competitor to the USA and China in a few years and New Delhi’s rise is to be attributed to its independent foreign policy, whereas currently its is buying Russian oil at cheaper rates but is also supporting calls for diplomacy. While China’s abstention in the deliberations of the United Nations came as a relief that of India was a surprise. This move of New Delhi was done to give a message that it would think for its own and that it doesn’t support the militarization of US backed alliances, which is unquestionably going to have an impact on the QUAD relationship.  Calls for self sufficiency are now started to be heeded more and the External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar cannot stop making the uncertainty of the future as an important issue in India’s deliberations with its international partners. Looking at the times ahead, an independent foreign policy is the order of the day.

The devastating war in Ukraine has also lain before the United States, a test of its relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It must be said that the response hasn’t been upto expectations. Despite US objections, the UAE’s de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan held an in-person meeting with the Moscow ally Bashar Al-Assad, not to mention that it too had abstained from condemning the Russian invasion. Saudi Arabia isn’t committing itself to the US demand of raising oil production and to top it more, it is looking to increase the share of the Yuan in its foreign reserves. These are signals which the two Middle-Eastern powers are conveying that while they still agree with Washington and its allies on some issues, it should not expect them to get involved in its feuds. If the West adopts a coercive policy, then they would not hesitate to turn towards Beijing and Moscow, who don’t criticize their human rights records and provide to them weapons and money.

Judging by the above mentioned scenario, it’s evident that the world isn’t heading towards peaceful years and that all options are well and breathing. But it might also not be a mistake to remark that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of those events are heralding the era of multilateralism, where there are multiple centers of power and which can be found in both the Western and Eastern hemisphere.

Writer is Student & Blogger


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