The Russia-Ukraine conflict has impacted global diplomacy, markets, politics, and every other sphere of life across the world. But if no course correction is undertaken, it might radically change the global balance of power in unexpected ways.
Way back in 1904, Halford John Mackinder in his book titled “The Geographical Pivot of History” submitted to Royal Geographical Society propounded the heartland theory wherein he argued that whoever controlled the area of Eastern Europe, then a part of the Russian empire, will essentially control the world.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the concerted attempts by the West in general and the USA in particular to integrate an economically diminished and militarily tamed Russia into Western liberal order through what came to be known as the ‘shock therapy’ radically altered the equation of power and global order. It was argued that liberalism had won the historic battle of ideas once and for all.
This sense of complacency that has crept by then was finally challenged with the rise of China on the global stage. Yet another development was Vladimir Putin’s ascendancy to power in 1999 and his idea to make Russia great again and claim for itself a global great power status.
Russia under Putin from the very beginning has harbored revanchist tendencies which got even more bolstered by what he saw as an apparent violation of all terms of the agreement, reassurances, and guarantees given to by the West. This led to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the 2014 annexation of Crimea and now the invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls demilitarisation and denuclearisation of Ukraine, carried out through a special military operation.
The tragic tale in Ukraine once again highlights the inherent weaknesses of the American and its EU allies’ strategy. The USA, rather than consigning to dustbin its signature policy of ‘beggar thy enemy’, that it followed vis-à-vis USSR, has mindlessly pursued with
the same policy.
USA’s active involvement in the remnant areas of the erstwhile USSR not only reveals the misplaced priorities of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era but also runs the dangers of overlooking a more serious existential threat of China.
Russia, which recognizes the region as it’s vital and core national security and strategic interest, seems to have acted in a much more realist fashion. The USA and its Western allies seem to be quite obsessed with the idea that by imposing sanctions, they could regulate Russian behavior. However, such sanctions have failed in the past and are bound to fail even in the present situation to deter Russia.
The history which serves as a better guide helps us to acknowledge the fact that when it comes to the vital and core national interest, Russia is ready to bear any amount of economic pain.
It is time the USA and its allies paid heed to words of wisdom from none other than Bismarck: “The need of the hour, therefore, is to recognize the real threat and try to work towards its containment.”
The West and particularly the USA must come to a unified conclusion that China remains a much bigger threat. The Mahanian wisdom of the country ruling the sea, ruling the world, must be taken more seriously. Any further alienation of Russia would only push Russia into the arms of China which could upset the entire balance in a way unheard of.
Taking a cue from the Kautilya wisdom, Ukraine should be neutralized as a sort of an ideal buffer between the two powers. The USA must actively and single-handedly focus on pivoting to Asia to combat an overly ambitious China. It can do so only if it disentangles itself from a zone such as Eastern Europe, where it is no longer required.