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A complex international political order

emerges
November 19, 2014, 12:00 pm

This handout
released by G20 Australia on November 16, 2014 shows the official G20
Summit "family photo" taken on November 15 and signed by G20 leaders
on November 16. G20 leaders, which collectively comprise 85 percent of
the world economy, wrapped up their annual summit on November 16 in
Brisbane with agreement on a wealth of issues, primarily economic. AFP
PHOTO/ G20 AUSTRALIA/ Andrew Taylor
The Ukrainian crisis has brought fresh strains into US-Russia relations and
it is plain to see that more than superficial damage has been done to EastWest ties. Allegations by the West that there is a Russian hand in the
revolt in Eastern Ukraine along with the implication that Russia is fighting a
proxy war of sorts in the separatist uprising in the region are strongly
evocative of the Cold War at its height. Likewise, the Wests support for the
Ukrainian central administration and its on-and-off condemnation of the
alleged Russian involvement in the separatist-oriented region carry more
than a whiff of the antagonisms of a Cold War kind.
Surviving leader of the erstwhile Soviet Union,
Mikhail Gorbachev, while reflecting on
developments in the Ukraine, has voiced the
apprehension that the world was reliving Cold War
type tensions and divisions. Some of those among
us with strong recollections of the Cold War
decades may tend to agree with Gorbachev but
they need to cast a more searching glance at the Ukrainian theatre and
outside it before venturing to comment on his thought-provoking
observation.

The Ukrainian crisis has brought fresh strains into US-Russia relations and
it is plain to see that more than superficial damage has been done to EastWest ties. Allegations by the West that there is a Russian hand in the
revolt in Eastern Ukraine along with the implication that Russia is fighting a
proxy war of sorts in the separatist uprising in the region are strongly
evocative of the Cold War at its height. Likewise, the Wests support for the
Ukrainian central administration and its on-and-off condemnation of the
alleged Russian involvement in the separatist-oriented region carry more
than a whiff of the antagonisms of a Cold War kind. There is no doubt that
the Ukrainian crisis is having a highly destabilizing impact on US-Russia
relations.
However, the Cold War which was unleashed close-on-heels of the ending
of the Second World War was an international phenomenon. It transcended
geographical boundaries and was of worldwide scope. A recounting of the
numerous proxy wars which were fought by the superpowers in those
decades would bear out this contention. But where else in the world,
besides the Ukraine, do we have tensions which are particularly of a Cold
War kind? This emerges as a most relevant poser, in view of the position
that a second Cold War is upon us.
In view of the difficulty of finding very many conflicts today of a
particularly Cold War kind, the commentator is compelled to argue that
Gorbachevs just referred to reflections are Russian-centric. They
constitute a view from Russia which is based mainly on developments in
Russias neighbourhood. However, it is hard to dispute Gorbachevs
contention that the Ukrainian crisis has Cold War overtones.
One of the biggest errors a student of international politics could make
today is to arrive at a simplistic understanding of current global political
realities. The present global political order is highly complex in nature and
this complexity seems to be increasingly deepening. This being the case, it
is even open to question whether one could speak of neat, easily
identifiable systems.
What should be plain to see is that we do not have today ideologicallydriven power blocs that are engaging each other globally. Political Ideology
has ceased to be crucial in the formation of global systems of any
significant kind, but economic linkages of international and regional scope
are proving important. This is tantamount to saying that Economics drives
politics.
As this is being written, US President Barrack Obama is on an Asian tour

which is taking him to a number of forums which are crucial to the further
emergence of Asia as the worlds number one growth centre. Forums such
as APEC and ASEAN have ceased to be purely Asian affairs. The US
President was at them prior to his attending the G20 Meet in Brisbane,
where the future course of the global economy will be further deliberated.
While growing global economic interdependence makes these Meets doubly
important for all, of greater significance is the proof these forums provide
that markets and money are very much more important to the world than
politics of any kind.
Security apparatuses and military strength continue to be important
components of national power, but what is of increasing significance to the
worlds foremost states is economic stability and growth. In order to
achieve the latter they are prepared to link-up with the relevantcountries
and regions, regardless of geographical boundaries.
In the search for markets and investments, China and the US are proving
to be foremost players. They are currently vibrantly active in the AsiaPacific and it is for mainly economic reasons that they are bolstering their
military presence in the region. They obviously have much to lose if they
let down their defences.
At the time of writing China has announced plans to disburse $20 billion in
loans in the ASEAN region. At the recent East Asia Summit in Myanmar,
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted saying that $10 billion would be
made available to ASEAN in cheap loans and a further $10 billion for
infrastructure projects in the region. Meanwhile, China has also finalized a
Free Trade Agreement with Australia. This is in addition to the ChinaASEAN Free Trade Agreement which is described as providing the worlds
largest Free Trade Area, and encompassing a substantial chunk of the
global population. China is also reportedly seeking a friendship treaty with
ASEAN in an effort to defuse tensions which have been building-up
between it and some states of the region over territorial disputes.
Accordingly, the picture that is emerging of an international system is
comparatively complex and defies easy configuring. Markets and money
are as important and perhaps more vital to the foremost powers than
politics and armaments, although considerable resources will continue to
be invested in the latter for the purpose of protecting economic assets
around the world.
Territorial squabbles will continue to simmer among some of the worlds
major economic players, but these disputed items of real estate will be

found to contain, in the main, power and energy resources. But our top
economic powers are unlikely to come to blows in a hurry over these
issues on account of the growth prospects they may have to compromise.
So, we would have with us multiple powers with an eye to advancing in
economic terms but it is unlikely that the world will see the re-emergence
of any power or ideological blocs in the traditional sense. Power would be
widely distributed among a multiplicity of players who would interact
pragmatically for economic advancement.
However, the current round of identity-based conflicts in the Asian and
Middle Eastern regions would continue undiminished. The violence of the
IS in Iraq and Syria falls into this category of conflicts. Such destructive
violence would continue indefinitely in view of the inability of the states
concerned and of their international backers to help evolve democratic and
inclusive states in the arenas of dispute.
Posted by Thavam