Salem Alketbi

Scenarios for the post-Ukraine era

الخميس - 17 مارس 2022

Thu - 17 Mar 2022

Since the outbreak of Russian military operations in Ukraine, the world has changed significantly, and all these changes contribute to shaping the post-Ukraine period in the new world order. The crisis has largely eclipsed the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which acted as a locomotive for change in the “architecture” of international relations until late February.

But it has dramatically receded and has been replaced by the Ukrainian factor, which has become the new locomotive of expected changes. The near future may bring a new, more influential and stronger locomotive. The first change in the global landscape is the strong polarization of international relations.

The scene is still far from the 1950s and 1960s, when the Non-Aligned Movement formed after the end of World War II and distanced itself from the rivalry between the Eastern and Western blocs and the Warsaw and Atlantic allies.

Although the bloc became an influential institutional framework in international relations at that time, the states that could be called neutral in the Ukraine crisis do not share the same spirit ideologically, intellectually, and geopolitically. Most of them have complex relations with both sides of the Ukraine crisis (Russia and the US-led West).

Another important change is Europe’s awakening to a serious strategic reality: it will not be able to defend itself if the US abandons it or withdraws its troops from Europe. Experts speak of the limited military capabilities of Europe’s major armed forces, especially because of repeated cuts in military budgets in recent decades.

This has led to gaps in defense readiness and development, particularly in areas such as smart missiles, drones, and offensive cyber capabilities (perhaps primarily for legal reasons); a heavy focus on various warfare strategies following the emergence of terrorist and other threats; and a waning interest in conventional warfare, which has returned as a renewed threat with Russian military operations in Ukraine.

Europe now fears that the war could spread to countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, and Slovakia. The effectiveness of nuclear capabilities is also declining due to the effects of the balance of terror between the major powers.

The emphasis is on conventional deterrence capabilities, which give NATO a new meaning, a new kiss of life, after a long search for a new identity and goals that are often unconvincing to many observers, to sustain the Alliance’s role in the years and decades ahead. NATO is now working to rapidly build a rapid reaction force to protect NATO’s eastern gateways to Europe.

This is the first deployment of this force, which was formed in 2002 to respond to a wide range of challenges, particularly disasters, evacuations and humanitarian assistance, but also security operations such as the 2004 Athens Olympics. In the 21st century, there are also new mechanisms for conflicts of influence and status.

The Ukraine crisis is not only about restoring Russia’s influence and ensuring its national security, but also about developing new mechanisms for post-Ukraine relations. Among these mechanisms are the gas pipelines. Russia wants to transform its role as the world’s largest gas supplier into a geostrategic bargaining chip.

This requires patient analysis to explore the limits of the role of conventional military power in resolving the conflict over the balance of power in the next world order.

After a period of convergence in the discussion of the future instruments of conflict and the place of military power, and the recognition that the conflict will be about technology and economic power, the Ukraine crisis raises two important questions. The first is Russia’s desire to maximize its role in the power struggle between China and the US.

Second, as a great power of the 21st century, Russia wants to maximize its military might as one of the most important elements of global power.

It wants to retain nuclear weapons as a vital deterrent, amid a collective belief in their destructive power, but in the sense that Moscow will hold on to military and cyber power as a means of international confrontation and as a strong competitor, not as a substitute for economic might and scientific and technological superiority.

The most important change, in my opinion, could come from the womb of the Ukraine crisis. In other words, Russia’s victory and enforcement of its say will mean a lot at the geostrategic level. The most important thing in this change is to keep an eye on China’s behavior toward Taiwan and see if the Ukrainian scenario will repeat itself.

Will the new situation put Russia at the forefront of a new multipolar struggle for leadership in the world order?

This would mean an increasing polarization of international relations and the emergence of new conflicts in different parts of the world, either because of the expected decline of American control or because of Russia’s attempt to gain new strategic advantages and exploit the chaos in international relations due to the transitional situation in which the world finds itself.

NATO’s position has also become more challenged. Russia can be expected to increase strategic pressure on Eastern European NATO members to give up their membership. This will put the Atlantic bloc to a real test in terms of protecting membership, not just enlargement. All this could set the stage for new military confrontations in Europe.