A month ago, we have written about the geopolitical games in Europe. Few would have thought that the current Russia-Ukraine crisis was going to escalate further to dangerous levels. Russia is now said to be prepared to invade Ukraine from the East and Belarus in the North. Blood reserves have reportedly been delivered to the border, together with supplies of medical equipment that would be needed to treat the injured.
Yet, the West’s worst nightmare is not a Russian invasion in Ukraine, as ultimately there is little much the West can do over Ukraine. It is neither an EU nor a NATO territory. The worst nightmare scenario for the West and the democratic world is an alliance that is emerging between Russia and China. Such an alliance will bring the superpowers head-to-head in a dangerous game that might well result in a Third World War.
It is no secret that China has been flexing its muscles lately, particularly in the South China Sea and threatening the prevailing status quo over Taiwan, its most coveted prize. The Silk Road initiative that was launched by China to advance is aimed at establishing itself as the world’s greatest economic and military superpower by 2049, the 100thyear since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
In view of this aim, we should therefore expect more muscle-flexing in the region and beyond. The Silk Road initiative, while it provides infrastructure investments in some countries, nonetheless conditions those countries to act according to China’s interests.
The worst nightmare for the West and the democratic world is an alliance that is emerging between Russia and China.
Tensions on the Ukraine border have pitted NATO allies against Russia, the latter seeking to secure its access to warmer seas by protecting its naval base in Crimea, the absence of which would lessen to a great degree Russia’s influence in the region.
In this latest geopolitical game, which the West had no option but to play, since it is too much dependent on Russian gas, China has taken Russia’s position and supported Russia’s claims that its security concerns need to be heeded by the West. While this position could well be deduced to the formation of a possible alliance between the two superpowers, it could also be a preparation of a narrative for when China decides to act over Taiwan.
The effects of an alliance
How would the world react if that had to happen? And how would the new geopolitical dynamics of a Russia-China alliance affect Europe? These are two crucial questions that the West might well start preparing to address.
The EU has been too much dependent on Russian gas, the absence of which would create an energy crisis of great proportions in Europe, one which is unseen in Europe’s recent history. The EU relies heavily on Russian gas to cover its energy needs in winter, with Germany and Eastern European countries, being the weakest points. Testament to this claim is Germany’s unwillingness to seemingly take sides on the issue, and only after pressure from the US, did Germany issue statements of possible sanctions targeting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, should Russia invade Ukraine.
The crisis has also led the European Commission to step up its efforts to secure additional gas supplies both from Azerbaijan and the Gulf, particularly Qatar. The US would also have to come to the EU’s rescue in terms of gas supplies if these are halted altogether.
The US would also have to come to the EU’s rescue in terms of gas supplies.
While the US has made unequivocal declarations of an impending Russian invasion, Russia is only too much aware that its economic model is dependent on the EU as much as the EU is dependent on Russia. Therefore losing the EU market would most likely send the Russian economy on a downward spiral, which the Kremlin cannot afford.
The dominance of the US and its Western allies on the multilateral global order is reaching its end and the formation of a possible Russia-China alliance would certainly need to be addressed in the near future, with both powers scrambling to secure allies across the globe, reminiscent of the Cold War.
On the other hand, the EU needs to step up its efforts in establishing strategic autonomy to ensure that its vital interests are not threatened by future crises and to enable itself to act independently of the US.
The Russian factor in European politics is here to stay, and Russia’s efforts in the Sahel region, might well result in Russia controlling the taps of migration on to Europe. The rules of the world order might have to be rewritten should a Russia-China alliance become a reality. In such an eventuality, Russia and China could become dominant in global political and economic affairs alongside the US.
In a decade, Russia may well end up becoming less of a headache for the West than China, and therefore, the EU and its ally the US, should prepare for this scenario.
The bottom line is that the lesson we learn from geopolitical dynamics is that unfortunately, many a time, history is erased from political consciousness, and the earlier we realise the effects of historical blindness, the better the chances are to secure long-term global peace, security, and prosperity.