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How Western Diplomacy Estranged the Global South During Unipolarity

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

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By Marlon Struver

With the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the landscape of geopolitics has been altered significantly. Even a Russian defeat in Ukraine cannot stop the processes that have been started. The lack of Russian isolationism shows how upcoming and Global South countries are shifting their alliances and how new institutions threaten the hegemony of American build institutions.

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The Tipping Point

In February 2022 the U.S. and its allies announced far-reaching economic sanctions on Russia, including terminating Russia from the SWIFT international payments system. Western analysts concluded Russia was now isolated and that a Russian financial disaster was in the wings.

This turned out to be misguided with almost no country outside of the Western sphere of influence imposing any sanctions on Russia. This might have gone unnoticed in the past, but the increased economic strength of countries like China and India is evaporating the Western economic monopoly.

Recently, BRICS countries even overtook the G7 in global GDP share. Current sanctions showed many Global South countries once more how the U.S. is willing to weaponise its economic hegemony, creating a de-dollarisation of the world economy.

Many nations like China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the ASEAN countries have

decreased their dollar usage in international payments, lowering the economic geopolitical power of the dollar. The fact that ASEAN, a notoriously neutral organisation, is decreasing its dollar usage should be a worrisome sign to Western policymakers.

Previously struggling to convince nations that it could be a new hegemon, China has cashed in on the situation. Not letting itself get dragged deep into the conflict, by proposing a peace deal and not (yet) providing arms, is giving the impression that China can be a non-aggressive hegemon.

The West might ridicule the Chinese peace deal, but other nations have reacted favourably. China supervising a Saudi-Iran settlement shows how nations are getting more comfortable with Chinese power.

What Went Wrong?

The current American hegemony was built on international organizations (like the UN and the ICC) and the economic power of Western countries. The stability of these institutions rested on liberal principles of freedom, democracy, and the equality of all peoples. The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, ushered in a unipolar period where these values were contradictory and ignored too many times in the name of aforesaid values.

In the decades of unipolarity, acts like U.S. meddling in the 1996 Russian elections, the NATO bombing of Serbia of which the legality is disputed and the U.S. invasion of Iraq without UN(SC) approval are a couple of instances where the U.S. and its allies ignored their own rules in the name of freedom and democracy.

These acts damage Western hegemony by destroying the legitimacy of its own values. A hegemony can only be sustained if smaller states accept the Hegemon's role as a responsible global leader and an increasing amount of Global South countries no longer trust Western nations to be responsible global leaders.

The current institutional behaviour in the Russo-Ukraine war has only contrasted with the global community that not all acts and countries are treated equally. Had the prementioned unipolar actions been successful it might have played out differently, but many have failed.

Russia has not been subdued or made a long-term ally in the late 90s and early 2000s, Afghanistan and Iraq have not been added to the list of Western allies and in the east ASEAN could not be persuaded while the liberalisation of China through economic investment has not occurred.

So, in the end, western actions have created few new geopolitical positions while their failure did alienate or estrange many nations. More and more Western nations are screaming into a void on diplomatic issues with many Global South and rising economies tuning out and carving their own way.

The lack of a clear endgame in the Ukraine conflict is another worry that this situation will again end in a diplomatic failure.

New Alliances for the Multipolar World

New global institutions ready to challenge the current institutions are on the rise. Currently, many nations like Saudi Arabia, Argentine and Indonesia are pondering joining BRICS. Another is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The increasing possibility of Chinese, and Indian cooperation is worrisome for the West. In the past national grievances would stand in the way of deepening diplomatic ties. Still, Russia will try to mediate India-China relations as it has historically deep ties with both nations, especially India.

Already Russia has mediated grievances between the two before and should they succeed in building lasting bridges between India and China, these new institutions will only strengthen, something noted by Chinese foreign policy experts.

In conclusion, we should be worried by the reckless diplomatic behaviour of Western policymakers in the last decades. Estranging potential allies while damaging its own institutions. Hailing in, potentially, a new multipolar world. With all risks that this might bring.

Sources: Bloomberg, Eurasiantimes, Foreign Policy, Japan Times, Overriding Democracy, Pacific Review

Written by Marlon Struver

June 2023

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of MJPE or its Board. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the MJPE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

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