(AFP) A year ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine altered the world order, deepening the fissures of globalization, and spurred its refoundation based on a logic of blocs with Russia in the Chinese orbit and Europe in the American one.

  • Supremacy and blocs

The war intensified tensions and accelerated the march toward a consolidation of large blocs around Beijing and Washington.

Central Asia, Caucasus, Balkans, Africa, Indo-Pacific. Several regions are the scene of silent struggles for influence – economic, military or diplomatic – between powers such as China, the European Union, the United States, Russia or Turkey.

The conflict has, for example, weakened Russia’s position in its former Central Asian republics and given Turkey great diplomatic opportunities.

For EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell, “everything is a weapon: energy, data, infrastructure, migration.”

“This chaotic recomposition is real, but probably transitory,” assesses Pierre Razoux of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES).

“Mechanically, the end of the war will see a weakening and attrition of Russia and Europe. The two big winners could be the United States and China,” he summarizes, in statements to AFP.

But would this mean a total division of the world? In the current context, emerging countries like Brazil or India try to appear as “balancing” powers, avoiding to align themselves clearly.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva even advocates creating a “group of countries” to “put an end” to the war in Ukraine, an initiative he has proposed to his counterparts in the United States, Joe Biden; in France, Emmanuel Macron, and intends to do to China’s Xi Jinping.

  • Chinese posturing and Russian vassalage

China, which sees itself as the first world power in 2049, is wondering, as is the United States, how to insert this war into its agenda.
Beijing supports Vladimir Putin’s Russia, although it tries to make its position seem acceptable to Westerners.

An intelligence report from Estonia, a former Soviet republic and EU member, calls it a “mistake” to consider Xi’s “reduced support” for Putin’s war as a “demonstration of detachment.”

Although Beijing does not help Moscow as Washington does Kiev, “the economic relationship has strengthened,” notes Alice Ekman, a China expert at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS).

But Russia, possessing a larger nuclear arsenal than China, risks being relegated to the level of a subordinate power.

“Russia is not in a position to negotiate with China, which will take what it wants from Russia and not give it what it wants,” such as weapons or some components, assesses Agathe Demarais, in charge of forecasting at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

For Razoux, “to avoid economic and strategic vassalage,” Moscow is betting on “diversifying its geopolitical, economic, and strategic relations: Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, and Africa.

  • Europe, power or pawn?

The EU is at a crossroads. Will the war allow it to reassert itself as an important third actor or will it relegate the bloc to a pawn of Washington?

“Europe has shown its resilience, its ability to react quickly from the beginning of the war, in military support, to refugees, in reducing energy dependence,” said a participant in high-level European decision-making at the beginning of the conflict.

Together in supporting Kiev, Europe wants to “strengthen the relationship with the United States, but realizes that one day it could be alone” if the ultra-republican and isolationist camp wins in Washington, assesses Razoux.

Spoliated by its most Atlanticist members, who only see their security under the American and NATO umbrella, the EU will try to reduce other strategic dependencies such as in critical raw materials, semiconductors, food, etc.

For French researcher Bruno Tertrais, from the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), Europeans risk being up against the wall if they don’t react.

  • And the Pacific?

“The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century,” Barack Obama prophesied in 2009, paving the way for America’s turn to Asia at the expense of Europe.

The war in Ukraine represents “a strategic distraction” for Washington, according to Tertrais.

Moreover, the American president, Democrat Joe Biden, must seek a balance between those who want a “quick” solution to the conflict and those in the Republican Party who are reluctant to send weapons to Ukraine, according to Giovanna De Maio, a researcher at George Washington University.

On the other hand, the case of Ukraine allows to prepare for an eventual conflict with China over Taiwan, the commander of the American troops in Japan, James Bierman, recently reminded the Financial Times newspaper.

  • End of globalization?

The economic sanctions imposed by Ukraine’s allies, with Europe and the United States leading the way, against Russia have struck a severe blow to the already weakened globalized free trade, boosted after the Cold War.

The sanctions “correct the gap in the diplomatic space between ineffectual declarations and potentially deadly military interventions,” Demarais summarizes in his book, “Backfire.

Measures such as limiting the value of a barrel of Russian crude oil, adopted by the G7 and the EU, have thus brought about “the end of the world market,” Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies, tells AFP.

But by undermining the idea of a world price, these measures could have another effect: allowing India and China, which do not impose sanctions, to buy Russian crude at a lower cost, he warns.

The restrictions on Russian products recrudesce the previous impacts inflicted on world trade, whether by protectionist decisions in the name of sovereignty or by external factors, such as the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on supply networks.

  • Cost of Living

Food, heating, and electricity are three basic elements of humanity whose prices have skyrocketed due to war in many regions, from developing Africa to prosperous Europe.

This “cost-of-living crisis” was already in sight before the pandemic, says the World Economic Forum in its latest report on global risks.

Although some governments have tried to limit its effects, 2022 was “marked” by “an unprecedented wave” of social demonstrations, which usually motivate protests against the authorities, according to a study by the Friedrich Ebert foundation, linked to the German social democratic party SPD.

The Middle East and North Africa, major food importers, are two of the most exposed regions, especially when the poorest countries have little financial leeway.

*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI team ***

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