Is the West Isolating Russia or is Russia Isolating the West?
The fact is both are true. Washington and Brussels are ejecting Russia in large part, though not fully, from the West. Moscow is isolating the West from ‘the rest’ with the eager participation of China and other partners and has been doing so for some time.
Led by Washington, the West has gone considerably far in expelling Russia from Western politics, the economy, and culture since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine. The problem is that Russia and China have long been preparing for the day when a complete break with the West would be necessary in view of their national interests as Moscow and Beijing see them. China, Russia, and numerous partners are copying Western international organizing represented by such institutions as the EU and NATO but in writ larger form. Russia’s inventions the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the BRICS organization, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and China’s the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBORI) are the institutional forebears of an alternative global system to the West’s own dominated by he EU, NATO, IMF, and World Bank. These structures are now becoming the platforms for a complete defection from the West by much of ‘the rest’ economically, financially, politically, and even culturally and militarily. China and Russia’s global project encompasses plans for de-dollarization, the creation of alternative banking and other economic institutions, including energy trade, were under way before the new Ukrainian war. All of these institutions and policies are now moving into high gear towards the creation of an alternative international community that will function autonomously and prosperously without the West.
The Sino-Russian strategic partnership, formed more that two decades ago in response to the U.S.’s poor handling of its hegemonic status after the Cold War, initiated this trend. America’s lack of magnanimity towards post-Soviet Russia manifested by NATO expansion, American revolotuionism reflected by U.S. democracy-promotion and color revolution policies, and Western hubris and self-righteousness based on its claim superiority rooted in its republicanism prompted Russia to embrace China. Both powers sought to protect their respective national sovereignty and security in the face of NATO expansion and international intstitutions dominated by the West. Subsequently, a rising China more powerful than Russia economically supported Russia’s BRICS and SCO initiatives and developed its own ugrade of these ideas – OBORI, which it could lead having been its initiator, designer, and financier. Beijing’s motivation was similar to Moscow’s own, though the the drivers of the motivation were sometimes different. Moscow was deadly opposed NATO expansion; Beijing sensed that Washington would resist China’s rise to superpower status and of a bipolar or multipolar international system. Russia feared color revolutions in its neighborhood and among its allies in Eastern Europe (Serbia and Ukraine), Eurasia (Georgia and potentially elsewhere), Syria as well as at home, Beijing feared Western, in particular American, interference in its internal affairs in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xingjiang.
The U.S. has now further consolidated and intensified the Sino-Russian strategic partnership by way of its provoking, then aggressively punishing and further rejecting Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while simultaneously challenging China regarding arms sales to Taiwan and even threatening to intervene militarily to defend the breakaway island with any attempt by Beijing to reunite it under the mainland’s sovereignty by force. Chinese fears over Taiwan due to this aggressive American stance caused Beijing to perceive Ukraine as handwriting on the wall. Thus, China has backed Russia’s war in Ukraine morally and accelerated joint efforts with Moscow to build an alternative world system. It is China that is now calling for adding new members to BRICS (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Argentina, and Indonesia the likely imminent additions) and SCO (Iran). Both parties are intensifying moves to de-dollarize their economies and trade and construct a projected new monetary-financial system that will be tied to BRICS, SCO, and OBORI partner-states. This interlocking set of international organizations is a network of networks linking much of the rest—the non-West—already, with much room and reason for there to be expansion. The tens of full member-states and observers in these organizations already includes the world’s five most populous nations besides the U.S. – China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Brazil — and well over than half the world’s population.
One reason there is potential for almost unlimited expansion is these organzations’ own ‘open door policy’, which places no demands on the regime type extant in prospective member-states. An authoritarian regime is as welcome as a democratic one. Democratic India, Brazil, and South Africa join authoritarian China and Russia in BRICS. India as an observer state in SCO. Not one Western state is participating in any of these initiatives. The West is isolated from them, and the rest’s leaders China, Russia, and even India have been doing the isolating. The non-West rest has refrained from joining the West’s sanctions on Russia, and democratic India has expressed sympathy for the Russian position on this and numerous other issues.
Finally, slowly but surely an anti-NATO is emerging among some in the rest. SCO has seen the development of a military aspect creeping into the institution since its founding some two decades ago. It conducts military maneuvers and other forms of military and intelligence cooperation, and its eight full member-states (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan), four observer member-states (Belarus, Iran, Mongolia, and Afghanistan), and nine dialogue partners (NATO member Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Qatar, and Sri Lanka) constitute more than half of the world’s population. Iran, an observer member, is seeking and likely soon to receive full membership. The limitations on support among the rest for the West in its war for NATO expansion to Ukraine were starkly demonstrated on July 20th when the MERCOSUR summit of Latin American states Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay refused to allow Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy address the gathering (https://www.barrons.com/news/mercosur-trade-bloc-denies-zelensky-request-to-address-summit-paraguay-01658343307). At the same time, China, Russia, and Iran are about to conduct naval military maneuvers in Venezuela with a focus on a fictional U.S. invasion on behalf of Columbia (https://10news.org/2022/07/for-the-first-time-russia-iran-and-china-will-conduct-military-maneuvers-in-venezuela/).
The West might find it more in its self-interest to allow what it regards as the less efficient authoritarian systems to persist among its competitors if they so prefer, while strengthening its own increasingly insufficiently republican systems and engaging its competitors in trade and development. If republican governance is truly superior – and I for one believe that it is – then others will over time figure it out. But the model has to be compelling not its adoption compelled. Meanwhile, we and our competitors in the West should return to the negotiating tables to end the war in Ukraine, create new European and global security and political architectures, resolve economic and trade disputes, and work on integrating the global economy within a more balanced but still competitive and decentralized economic order that protects all states from the machinations of authoritarian globalists and uncompromising great powers. The other option to all this – dual isolation, a world split apart, growing socioeconomic chaos, and military confrontation — could end extremely unpleasantly and perhaps not least of all for the West.
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About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored four well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media. Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.