This April 6, 2022 file photo shows a sculpture of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) logo and the flags of its members at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. PHOTO XINHUA
In the Russian-Ukrainian geopolitical conflict, there is a very remarkable phenomenon. Western sanctions against Russia go beyond the level of national governments, and many are promoted by private capital and multinational institutions, ranging from international credit cards to the taste of ice cream, the banning of the composer’s works Russian Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky at the International Cat Federation blocking Russian cats from competitions.
This was not the case even at the height of the Cold War. This is the first time that attempts to isolate a country have gone beyond the actions of the nation-state, leaving the dominant role to big private capital, financial capital and technology companies.
Behind this phenomenon, we can see the strong links between political power and economic groups in the Western world, especially in the field of public opinion. Mass media used to be just the “megaphone” for interest groups, but today they have themselves become capital groups after being combined with internet platforms. Russia is a market that has not yet been totally “colonized” by Western capital and, at present, power and capital are trying to conquer it.
The above phenomenon may be a new trend in future international politics. Although the United States and Europe are a divided society, many forces oppose this trend – not the waning left-wing movement in the West, but the right-wing forces represented by the French far-right leader Marine le Pen, and former US President Donald Trump — but economically, the West’s confrontation with Russia and even with China will be increasingly intense.
In fact, the new economic Cold War between the West and Russia has already begun. I would like to call this a fight for “dollar hegemony”. In this sense, it is similar to, but more intense than, the trade war launched by Trump against China five years ago.
Western sanctions against Russia are also an international political version of the “cancellation culture” prevalent in the West. The so-called cancel culture is just another phrase for “censorship”. In post-war Western society, the word “censorship” is not accepted, hence the coining of the term “cancel culture”.
In fact, Western “censorship” of culture and politics in Latin America and the Arab world has always existed. But in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, such a phenomenon has become more noticeable. The only difference between “cancel” and “censorship” is that “cancellation” is not only promoted by governments, but also by capital, media and society. A typical example is that information published by Russia will be blocked by mass media and news platforms such as Twitter, and anyone who does not oppose Russia will run into the “cancel culture”. in Western society.
Western discourse on the Ukrainian crisis is a typical narrative of “dehistoricization” (historical nihilism). For example, they said that Russia’s military operation resembled Germany’s invasion of France in World War II; they said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was Hitler, in an effort to paint the image of Russia as an “invader”. But they deliberately ignored the complex historical context of the conflict. When Russia is portrayed as evil, Russia’s “nullification” will be “rationalized”.
NATO claims that its purpose is to defend the security of Europe. If that’s true, when the Soviet Union collapsed, of course, NATO should have been disbanded as well. But the fact is quite the opposite. Instead, NATO is expanding. It evolved from a defensive organization to an offensive block. No military alliance will bring security and peace, and what will be unleashed is only war. Therefore, it is not good news for the world that countries like Finland seek to join NATO.
What the West is doing to Russia today can be seen as a rehearsal for what it will do to China in the future. I have no doubt about the intention of the United States to “bite” China’s interests on the Taiwan issue. Much like what NATO has done in Europe, the US is trying to exploit the Quad to counterbalance China’s development in Asia. The Quad looks a lot like an Asian NATO, but lacks the energy of NATO due to a seemingly contradictory fact: even though tensions between India and China have escalated, India still hopes to maintain economic and trade relations with China, and won’t blindly follow Washington.
Will the Russian-Ukrainian conflict lead to World War III? I think the risk is there. In my opinion, US President Joe Biden is not a leader capable of handling the extremely sensitive, delicate and complex situation at the moment. His series of practices showed the world a decline in American leadership and a shift in world power, just like in the 1940s when Britain was on the decline and the United States on the rise.
We are in a time when the world order is collapsing and all rules based on the Bretton Woods system are disintegrating. The moment the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council was an embodiment of this reality. The new order may take years to recover, but we don’t yet know when and what it will look like.
BY ARTURO LAGUADO, GLOBAL TIMES
The author is a professor and member of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Argentina. This opinion piece was first published in the Global Times on April 25, 2022. The Global Times is a Chinese English-language newspaper of People’s Daily, an official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.