The Effects of the Russia-Ukraine War on the International Order

After the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Ukraine, which declared its independence in 1991, preferred to be a part of the Western world.  This preference of the country is being tried to be prevented by the Russian Federation with a military operation still continuing in 2022, eight years after the annexation of Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine.

In the period from the industrial revolution to the present, it has been witnessed that the international order was reshaped after wars. After Napoleon’s seizure of power in France, the invasion period of Europe between 1800-1815 by Napoleon, with the motto of “equality, freedom, and fraternity” resulted in the defeat of France. Then, the great powers of the period, Russia, Prussia, Great Britain, and Austria ensured the balance of power through the Vienna settlements and the period known as the European Concert started in 1815.

The international order established by the great powers by including France generally continued without any tremors until 1871, when Germany completed its unification. The European Concert was broken after the unification of Germany by defeating Denmark Austria and France, and this country’s insistence on having colonies to be considered a “great state” like other powers, as required the understanding of the period, led to starting of World War I.

World War I ended with the defeat of Germany, the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The Russian Tsardom, with the revolution in 1917 left its place to a new political formation, the USSR. Due to the USA staying away from world politics, Britain and France, the victorious states of World War I, dominated the international order between 1918-1939 with the League of Nations established by international society.  Peace treaties having very hard conditions to be fulfilled by the defeated countries are among the main reasons for the outbreak of World War II.  After World War II, which lasted six years between 1939-1945, and caused great destruction and millions of lives lost, a new era called the “Cold War” based on the bipolar world order under the leadership of the USA and the USSR started. While the countries were classified into two groups as members of the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc during the Cold War period, the less developed countries generally took their place in the order as “Non-Aligned”.

The Cold War was over with the disintegration of the USSR, USA dominating international order between 1991-2000 established almost unipolar world order.  Then, Putin’s coming to power in Russia, and -contrary to predictions- the economically unstoppable rising of China, which benefits most from globalization around the world, started to give the first clues about the establishment of a new order. In such an environment, NATO’s eastward expansion and its efforts to contain Russia increased Russia’s security concerns, whereas the United States did not develop an attitude that would convince the Russian administration to alleviate Russia’s concerns. At this point, the military operation launched by Russia on February 24, 2022, to invade Ukraine still continues. The US administration showed its reaction against this development by announcing that the USA would not respond with weapons, but comprehensive economic sanctions would be applied, and similarly, the European Union (EU) also joined the economic sanctions against Russia.

Initially, the Russia-Ukraine War may not be seen as important to affect the reshaping of the international order, but Russia’s demand related to the status of Ukraine to remain a neutral country reveals that this issue is seen as a “survival” interest for Russia, and Russia states that it will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to reach its aim.  In this context; In an analysis where the USA, EU, China, and Russia will be considered together, it can be expressed that this war will have some consequences, as listed below, may affect the international order:

-Despite the common points of race, language, religion, history, and culture, it has become very difficult for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia to get closer again in the near term after February 24, 2022. Ukraine may turn into a region that will cause a lot of pain to Russia in the future.
-Security concerns of former Eastern Bloc members Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech, Slovakia, which are still EU members, and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which gained their independence after the USSR will tighten the EU even more within itself.
-This war, despite to Brexit, will facilitate the re-establishment of Western cooperation between the United Kingdom and the EU, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
-Russia is likely to get closer to China in this political climate.
-Globalization trend will decrease due to economic sanctions.
-In particular, the dependence of EU countries on Russian oil and gas may require the exclusion of energy in the sanctions to be applied against Russia and/or makes it possible to ease the sanctions imposed on Iran to meet the potential deficit in oil and natural gas supply and to accelerate the solution of the crisis in Libya.
-While Moscow tries to overcome possible resistance in Ukraine and/or economic sanctions against Russia, the USA may increase its influence in Taiwan and the South China Sea region in order to limit China, which the USA sees as an ally of Russia.
– In order to prevent China’s economic growth by disrupting the Road and Belt project, the USA can take initiatives in some countries which involve in this project. 
-The increasing effect of economic sanctions may harm domestic stability in Russia in the midterm.
-As a NATO member country, Turkey may encounter difficulties in maintaining cooperation with Russia.

Even if the Russia-Ukraine War ends at the moment when these lines are written, the possible outcomes listed above will remain valid to a large extent. Ukraine, which was destabilized and depopulated by the migration movement of more than two million, became the loser of the Russia-USA encounter in the short term, due to the destruction within this country. Despite the ongoing negative situation, it should not be forgotten that the war is a universe of unknowns. Time will reply this question: who will be the real winner of this war in the mid and long term?

Russia-Ukraine War, while strengthening the Western alliance throughout the world, shows that Russia, expected to be weakened economically in the coming period, can get closer with China, Iran, North Korea, and Central Asian countries gained their independence after the USSR. In this context, strengthening and increasing the effectiveness of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of the developments that can be expected in the upcoming period.

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