Ukraine: we’re winning the battle, but are we winning the war?
This column was first published in L’Opinion on 30th June 2022
The battle between Russia and Ukraine seems set to last for some time, begging the question: time is on whose side in the quest for a new world order?
Normally resident in Hong Kong, I have been in Paris for a month where one thing has become clear: the West is definitely winning the battle for Ukraine, given the surprising weakness of the Red Army. However, at the same time, seen from China, it is the opposing camp, united around Beijing, that is making continuous progress in the fight for the rebuilding of a world order, based on the de-Westernization of the world.
Europe and the USA have trouble understanding that, today, the rest of the world is no longer ready to accept a governance that dates back to 1945 and which gives 10% of Westerners 90% of influence over the workings of the world. Driven by its legendary opportunism, China is seeking to profit from the Russian military debacle and federate the 90% of non-Westerners, with a threefold objective in building a new world: de-democratization, de-NATO-ization, and de-dollarization.
De-democratization. Unfortunately, this is fast gaining ground in non-Western countries. Recent statements by former US Vice-President Mike Pence (2017–2021) about Donald Trump’s attempted coup have made the USA less credible than ever. England has been discredited by the Partygate scandal and the acknowledged excesses of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street team during lockdown. The strong inflationist thrust resulting from the Ukrainian conflict will certainly worsen the social divide between the Anywheres and the Somewheres, also presaging the rise of those favouring strong regimes in Western democracies, as was the case in the 1930s.
China is seeking to profit from the Russian military debacle in order to build a world with a threefold objective: de-democratization, de-NATO-ization, and de-dollarization.
De-NATO-ization of the world. Although Europe is delighted to see the political and military alliance strengthened by the adhesion of Finland and Sweden, it seems to ignore the fact that 82 NATO countries either abstained or voted against excluding Russia from the Human Rights Council, or that 132 countries attended the recent economic summit in St Petersburg. The idea that US presence in a region — the Middle East or Eastern Europe — systematically leads to war, is not without its supporters in the countries around the China Sea, even though the idea is counter-intuitive.
De-dollarization of trade. This final element of reconstruction has just made significant progress with Russia’s European customers paying for gas in rubles. Like a Trojan horse, it opens the door for the future rise in power of the Chinese RMB, and world trade carried out in dollars has already dropped from 70% to 60% over the past 20 years.
The fundamental question to ask with regard to the battle between Russia and the Ukraine, which seems set to last for some time, is therefore: time is on whose side in the quest for a new world order? As long as 10% of the world remains in the “democracy camp”, opposed to what is a strange reminder of the “axis of evil” so dear to George Bush, although it includes 90% of the world’s population, there is little chance of seeing an intelligent solution emerge on a global level.
It would certainly be much better if Europe came up with some concrete proposals for a new world order, and stopped indirectly promoting the federation of an “axis of evil” as the Americans would have it. It should think about the possible areas of common interest with the 90% of non-Westerners.