*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Andrei Sushentsov, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club, on how the U.S. is trying to maintain the anti-Russia coalition and what roles different countries play in this.
When you consider the main tendencies in the current international crisis, it becomes obvious that, to the largest extent, the initiative belongs to the U.S. The United States’ objective is to hinder the establishment of a polycentric world and to solidify its hegemony for the remainder of the 21st century. To achieve that, Washington is trying to provoke Russia and China, and force them to take drastic steps that would alienate their allies. As a result of the fact that the relationship Russia and China have with their partners is souring, the U.S. is counting on the release of significant material resources that could then be used to reinforce its own influence.
The United States’ second objective is to limit the economic growth of its own partners and coerce them into obeying the alliance and submit to its discipline. The U.S. plans to eliminate the current impulse toward strategic autonomy both in the European Union and among U.S. partners and allies in Asia. Washington is hoping that, as a result, it will strengthen its role as the primary irreplaceable member of the multilateral military partnerships in which U.S. allies participate.
Working with everyone separately, the U.S. is striving to drag its partners in East Asia into European conflicts — and vice versa. That’s how very exotic talks about supplying Poland with South Korean tanks are emerging. Although there’s no direct link between the Ukrainian crisis and the situation in Taiwan, the U.S. is making every effort to create an artificial link. The challenge of the current international situation is that Washington can’t afford to have a conflict with Russia in Ukraine and with China in Taiwan at the same time. That is forcing the U.S. to withhold military aid to Taiwan.
The allies’ role within the anti-Russia coalition is different. A group of more radicalized states stands out. In Europe they include Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They offer themselves as instruments of American politics; they see their task as involving the U.S. in European matters as much as possible. The “European radicals” strive to use this involvement as leverage in their own struggle with Western European states, whom they criticize for their “reconciliation” with Russia.
The U.K., the No. 2 in American global politics and somewhat of an American right hand, holds a special place. Having such status, London often allows itself to act proactively ahead of Washington, allowing its senior partner to occasionally play the role of a moderate international player.
France, Italy, Germany and a range of other countries which don’t wield political initiative and try to create conditions that would revert the much more radical consequences of the crisis, constitute the group of cautious states. But the economic consequences of this crisis will be paid at their own expense. They’ll be the main sponsors of expensive American energy resources and providers of economic security for the countries of Eastern Europe.
Opportunist countries are a separate group. In Europe it’s Hungary and Turkey. They are seeking a way to protect their own interests, including through bargaining with the U.S., with the goal of achieving a more favorable course of events for themselves on the continent. The actions of the opportunist countries bear the outlines of the future polycentric world and have a special place in the anti-Russia coalition: They’re united by their search for peace, and they are interested in establishing a polycentric system because these conditions will indeed allow them to maintain their freedom to manipulate foreign policy and secure their economic stability, mainly in their trade with Russia in the energy sector, mineral resources sector and foodstuffs. The behavior of these countries reminds us of the current actions of the Arabic states in the Persian Gulf, African countries and countries of Latin America, among others.
In time, both South Korea and the countries of Western Europe might lean toward the opportunistic model of behavior. They don’t have enough room under the conditions of the new Cold War, which narrows the opportunity for maneuvering and forces them to take more radical positions. Everyone realizes that the current crisis will have no immediate resolution, so they are planning their course of action for the coming years based on the continuation of the crisis. With that, they are aware that this crisis indirectly delivers a blow to their own interests, undermining their political significance and cutting economic opportunities, influencing the stability of supply chains, logistics, economic security and the strategic situation on the continent. Under such conditions, these countries will grow more attentive to Russian interests, which will allow us to have more vigorous and productive dialogue with them.
However, right now the search for cracks in the anti-Russia coalition of the Western states is not promising. Washington firmly holds the initiative and is literally twisting the arms of the countries which dare to raise their voices for financing peace and not war. In doing that, the U.S. has a group of influential allies from the radical states of Eastern Europe that imagine themselves as the frontier of security that should be reinforced to battle Russia at any cost.
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