In the global geopolitical theatre, Europe has always played a central role throughout history. The history of Europe is the history of wars. European geography was shaped by wars right from the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta to World War II. The present European political constellation is the making of the Second World War fought between two groups of international powers in which the Allies — a group of countries including mainly the United States, Russia and Britain — badly beat the Axis of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan. Germany was divided, Japan was demilitarized and Europe’s map was redrawn splitting the entire continent into American sphere of influence and the region of Russian dominance giving rise to bi-polar world order.
The disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 brought about a tectonic shift in the global geopolitical map in general and the geopolitics of Europe in particular with the world order turning unipolar. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. What had been done in the aftermath of Second World War was undone in the wake of the emergence of the unipolar world. The Berlin Wall was torn down, Germany was unified and several new countries were born in Eastern Europe and the Balkan region.
The advent of US-led unipolar order is now facing tough time. The world appears to be in labour pain trying to give birth to a new order — perhaps once again a bi-polar one. Some analysts and geopolitical pundits alike see it as the process of emerging multi-polar world order.
More powers are emerging in the world challenging the Washington’s dominant position in the global politics, while American might is slowly declining. China, Russia and India alike are definitely rising as significant powers but they at the moment lack the quality and strength to become super powers. Thus, the logic of multipolar world order does not hold water at least for another two decades.
China’s economic rise is definitely phenomenal. It has already risen as a second largest economy and is on the path of becoming the largest economy in near future. Technologically and militarily too, China has made tremendous progress but lags far behind the United States and has to go a long way to match the military might of the United States. Russia and India may be further behind.
Thus, United States is likely to maintain the sole super power status for at least another two decades. China, however, can emerge as a super in two to three decades, if Beijing continues to maintain its present economic growth and development in other sectors.
Unipolar world order is definitely not good for better global balance of power. Unipolar world disturbs international power equilibrium and creates hegemonic world order. Bipolar world order is the best for global balance of power. Multi-polarity creates chaotic order. Bipolar world order is possible but it takes a little longer until China reaches the parity with the United States in terms of military and technological prowess.
Historically, Europe’s role had been a key for global balance of power. However, Europe itself is in crisis at present. Already badly bruised by pandemic, Europeans economy is in further trouble due to prolonged Ukraine war since Russia invaded the neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022. Europe is now facing the brunt of crises caused by Ukraine war. Different European countries are hosting almost eight million Ukrainian refugees. Prices of goods and energy have gone up making life of people more difficult. Ukraine war has not only made life difficult in Europe, the war has hit the entire world.
International community has expressed a grave concern over the developments in Europe and Ukraine. The United Nations and a large majority of international community have condemned the brutal and brazen act of Russian invasion in Ukraine. While the rest of the world stands with Ukraine some important countries like India and China have refrained to take side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. On the surface, Russia and Ukraine are physically at war but deep down in the global geopolitical contestation, the war is between the United States and Russia. Ukraine war is just the symptom and the real disease lies elsewhere.
Ever since Putin came to power, his attempts were to revive the old glory of Soviet Union era for which he has doubled down military build-up and is flexing muscle in the western neighbourhood frightening the rest of European countries more particularly in the Baltic, Nordic and Balkan regions. Pro-Russian analysts try to justify Russia’s move as a counter balancing act against NATO’s eastward expansion in Europe. It is true that NATO is expanding eastward and, if Ukraine formally joins, NATO will reach the border of Russia. Moscow sees it as a serious security threat. However, the West is of the view that NATO was forced to go eastward due to Russia’s warmongering in the neighbourhood. Whatever the logics and counter-logics, invasion in another country can by no means be justified.
As the conflict escalates, spectre of nuclear war looms large in Europe, about which some Russian authorities, too, have not ruled out. The war has already hit hard Europe and the world, nuclear conflict will invite further devastation. Entire humanity and human civilization will be in danger. War is not in the interest of humanity. Thus, this brutal war must be brought to an end for which global efforts need to be initiated.
Since India and China have maintained neutrality in Russia-Ukraine conflict, these two countries alone can persuade Russia and Ukraine to bring into a negotiating table and find an amicable solution to end the war if they work jointly. Given their international stature as well as their engagement with both Russia and Ukraine, India and China have the capability of achieving peace between Russia and Ukraine. Herein lies their international responsibility and these two Asian neighbours need to join hands for the larger cause of humanity.
(The author is former ambassador and former chief editor of this daily. email@example.com)