With Tensions Escalating Over Ukraine and Taiwan, Will the New Cold War Evolve into a New Global War?
Washington has broadened its engagement in South Asia as part of its wider Indo-Pacific vision to counter Beijing. Tensions have also been on the rise on the Korean peninsula amid concerns over a “new Asian NATO”. Moreover, in May, US President Joe Biden pledged to militarily defend Taiwan against China. In addition, Washington has been selling arms to Taipei (as it has been doing with Kiev).
Meanwhile, the June NATO Summit in Madrid has made it clear that the military Alliance seeks to completely encircle Russia. The Atlantic Alliance has been expanding east since 1999, and now, with Swedish and Finnish membership, its reach will expand as far out as the Arctic, another geopolitical hot point. The same Summit also has openly addressed Beijing as a threat, which is unprecedented.
So, such an ill-conceived “siege policy” on Russia and China at once has the collateral effect (from an American perspective) of boosting cooperation between these two great powers. This situation, however, brings many challenges to all actors involved and for global peace. For one thing, it is hard to conceive how Washington can possibly have the resources and political will to keep encircling Beijing and Moscow simultaneously for too long.
According to US National Guard Bureau Gen. Dan Hokanson, the Guard is considering a major training program expansion in the Indo-Pacific. These partnerships aim to boost a regional anti-China coalition, in the context of American-Chinese competition for influence among the small island nations. This is mostly about military considerations, as the recent Solomon Islands episode has made clear.
Dmitry Suslov, a Higher School of Economics US-Russia relations expert, claims that, since the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis, Washington has also “intensified its confrontational approach towards China”. According to the scholar, the US is trying to build a global integrated system of alliances while simultaneously confronting both Moscow and Beijing. He describes such a project as aiming at a “global, truly consolidated, tightly integrated system of alliances, and not just vertically integrated.” It would involve “horizontal interconnection”, with European and Asian alliances. This explains why the latter were also invited to the Madrid Summit. The Summit’s Declaration also acknowledged that there has been an “unprecedented level of cooperation with the European Union”, and vowed to strengthen this strategic partnership.
Thus, while much has been talked about a “new Asian NATO” (pertaining to the QUAD or even the so-called “new QUAD”), American ambitions in fact include what one could describe as a new “global NATO”, comprising allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. This bloc’s raison d’être is to counter the “threat” of Russian-Chinese cooperation, a “threat” that is the result of Washington’s own encirclement policies against two great powers.
While for now there is no reason to believe that China will go so far as to militarily intervene in Taiwan in the near future, on the other hand, if any provocation or escalation of tensions between these great powers spirals out of control, then there is a risk of world war, as many analysts have warned since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war on February And, worse, such a scenario could involve nuclear war– in this case, there would be no winners.
American unipolarity is coming to an end, no matter how much the White House would like to maintain it. Because the American Establishment sees multipolarity as a kind of an existential challenge, it would seem that the US, in a kind of “plan B”, would prefer to push for a new bipolarity rather than to welcome the emergence of new polycentric world order.
In doing so, Washington tries to coopt partners into full alignment, thus attempting to perpetuate the new Cold War and threatening global peace. This is a false dilemma, though. There are signs the age of non-alignment and multi-alignment has come to stay, as African nations, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil have shown. These emerging powers have been successfully avoiding the trap of alignment, while pursuing their own interests.
To sum it up, Russian-Chinese cooperation will increase, and so will multi-alignment amid regional emerging powers. These new configurations have the potential to foster new forums and new systems. While much is talked about BRICS and new (non-dollar-based) market mechanisms and institutions, right now the planet badly needs new diplomatic mechanisms and structures, not only to avoid bipolarity and build multipolarity, but to minimize the risk of a global nuclear war and literally save the world.
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Uriel Araujo is a researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.
Featured image is from InfoBrics