BY DAN EHRLICH
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in the news recently for declaring a “new world order” is imminent out of the Ukraine war. If he’s talking about a world order based on nuclear terrorism from a few barbaric nations he may have a valid point.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s powerful security council, told a conference in Moscow, “The world is sick and quite probably is on the verge of a new world war.”
He said such a new world war was not inevitable but the risks of a nuclear confrontation were growing and more serious than concerns about climate change.
As for Putin, he says the world faces the most dangerous decade since World War Two. He casts the war in Ukraine as an existential battle with an aggressive and arrogant West and has said that Russia will use all available means to protect itself against any aggressor, especially if its an imaginary one conjured up in his bigoted West-hating mind.
To create a world order and be at its head, a nation needs one or possibly two attributes. First, it has to be a wealthy productive nation that spreads it wealth to other nations thereby creating an interdependence for world well-being. Also, having a passionate belief in helping less fortunate people is also high up there.
And/or second, a nation has to be so militarily strong it can bully other nations into its orbit of thinking. This is probably what Lavrov was thinking of when proclaiming the birth of a new world order.
Since the end of WW2 until 1989 the industrialized Western nations carried on a cold war with the Soviet Union, a war actually instigated by the West following WW1 out of fear that a communist revolution would spread to capitalist nations dependent on cheap labor.
The West eventually won this economic war of attrition hands down. But it didn’t win the peace. In fact, as Medvedev says, the world is probably a more dangerous place now than it was during the height of the Cold War.
During the Cold War, the US and NATO developed a live-and-let-live posture with the Soviet Union known as ‘Détente.’ It maintained the peace since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis on a war prevention scenario known as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). There was agreement between the US and the Soviets that any nuclear exchange between the two would mean both nations and possibly the world would be destroyed…a definite no, no.
Unfortunately, after the rather sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, liberal democracy, unknown to the Russian population, never had a decent chance to grow before Putin gained power with a goal to re-establish the Soviet Union, whose demise he claimed was one of history’s great disasters.
His 2014 annexation of Crimea and the current Ukraine war are two pieces of the puzzle to rebuilding his lost Soviet empire and Russian glory.
As Lavrov put it, “Any peace talks with Ukraine must be centered on a new world order. Any negotiation needs to be based on taking into account Russian interests, and Russian concerns. It should be about the principles on which the new world order will be based. Russia rejects a unipolar world order led by one hegemon. Russia is leading the struggle against US dominance over the international stage and the Ukraine offensive is part of that fight.”
So what Lavrov is doing is validating the proxy nature of NATO’s sideline participation in the Ukraine war, with Russia hoping to unseat the US and NATO as Numero Uno on the world stage with an eventual win there. Only such a victory, he feels, would validate his new world order proclamation…a proclamation based on Ukraine losing the will to fight and NATO losing interest in supplying Ukraine with endless amounts of weapons.
Ideally, Lavrov and his master would hope Ukraine’s defeat would scare other former Warsaw Pact nations back into the Russian orbit, with NATO being held at bay by Russia’s nuke threat. That could possibly happen and it could portend the return of a far more frigid cold war than the previous one.
During the Soviet era, Russia and China were the chief cold warriors with China eventually warming to the West as its chief cheap merchandise warehouse. China’s newfound wealth has been built largely on Western trade. And it’s the one thing that has kept the peace in the region since the end of the Vietnam War.
Now, however, Russia has been joined by a belligerent and warlike North Korea as a mini-nuke power along with Iran, which will soon, if not already, have nukes. They will form a trio of West-hating nuke-armed totalitarian dictatorships confronting the world to get what they want.
When Crimea was annexed by Russia all NATO could do was slap the first of many sanction rounds to come on Putin. But the fate of Ukraine post-war will determine the shape of any world order.
The Major problem facing the West is having to be held at bay by a megalomaniacal dictator who holds the strongest hand. Putin knows his nuclear arsenal can do far more damage to the wealthy and civil West than NATO could do to his sparsely populated far flung less than wealthy nation. That’s the trump card he has been playing. And so far it’s been working to a degree. That’s why there is no direct NATO troop involvement in this conflict.
Oddly enough the world now finds itself in a situation not too different from that depicted in the classic British comedy The Mouse That Roared. In that film, the great powers were being held to ransom by a tiny fictional country that managed to capture an atomic weapon.
Only in the real world, we find ourselves having to deal with three rogue nations that are not the least bit funny.