The world is rapidly entering the era of vengeance. Two major vectors are converging: From the East, the Asian powers – China, India, Russia – are each seeking a new position of strength in the world order; At the same time, the heterogeneous group of developing or growing countries in the southern hemisphere is demanding new housing from the south with increasing force and association. Capacities and approaches are different, but there is a common denominator in the will to overcome an unsatisfactory, sometimes humiliating past that requires change and compensation; in an opportunistic historical revisionism; by directing these demands against the West, a hegemonic power for a long time, against a background of reproach or even anger.
The movement is not new, but it is gaining speed and intensity. China and India are stronger today than at any time in recent centuries. The non-aligned generally carry more weight today than half a century ago. The general debate in the UN Assembly held this week will help to understand the future of this era, both through the speeches and the absence – Xi, Putin, Modi, Macron, Sunak… – which indicates that This pulse not go through the UN and its multilateralism. Let’s look at its background dynamics.
After losing the Cold War, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the brutal disaster of the nineties, Putin’s Russia rebuilt itself at the beginning of this century, and since 2007 – with the famous speech of the Russian president at the Munich Security Conference began to signal his dissatisfaction with the development of international relations and his desire to preserve his sphere of influence in the face of the storm of countries from the former Soviet environment that wanted to align themselves with the West. With growing confidence in its capabilities, the Kremlin launched attacks in Georgia and Ukraine, advanced into Syria, projected its influence in Africa, until the brutal drumbeat of the large-scale invasion in February 2022. The rewriting of the past is a core element of this maneuver. This is the case both with regard to past relations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as with regard to the USSR, the rehabilitation of Stalin, the exaltation of an almost mythical “Russian world” that transcends the borders of the country or of old imperial experiences.
On the back of strong economic growth and a privileged geopolitical position, India is growing in its assertiveness on the global stage. It is courted by the West as a valuable ally against China, it demonstrates significant technological capabilities with its space program, and it has a demographic boom of young people. His government is developing a Hindu nationalism that is very determined to consolidate its place in the world, including in an attempt to establish itself as a spokesperson for the global south. Here too, the past is configured as an element to gain momentum. On the one hand, with the speeches that point out that we still have to completely overcome the mentality of colonial submission – and the resulting gestures, such as the abandonment of the old British-built Parliament -; on the other hand, referring to symbols of tradition, such as flirting with the idea of adopting Bharat, the Hindu toponym with ancient tradition, as an absolute reference name replacing India. In the context of this assertion, the accusation has been launched by the government of Canada, which this week reported that it has indications that New Delhi is behind the assassination of a Sikh leader on its territory. A fact which India categorically denies.
China is, of course, at the center of this great rebalancing movement. The enormous economic and technological growth of recent decades supports a new position of power for Beijing on the world stage. Here, too, the effort is seasoned by references to the dark stretch of the national past, from which we must proudly recover to return to the historical state of a central empire, as well as a historical revisionism of suspicious intentions. China is projecting itself onto the global board with economic and infrastructural initiatives and trying to weave networks that offset America’s formal alliances. Its latest maneuver to expand the BRICS forum is a symptom of the acceleration of plans to force a change in the balances of the world order.
The movement from the east is added to that from the south. It is of course more diffuse, as it is not the initiative of the unitary powers – and which in the case of China and Russia support each other very much politically – but rather a gaseous amalgamation of countries with different situations. But it is undeniable that there is a growing convergence between them, precisely also because of the work in countries like India or Brazil that are trying to weave a framework.
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The West is the recipient of this desire for change, to gain new space and prominence and, yes, revenge. There are many responsibilities accumulated through a recent history of hegemony. Without going further, just think of the Iraq war, which nails several Western countries into the ugly framework of double standards.
It is clear that many observe with irritation how we Europeans are clamoring for everyone to consider the issue of the invasion of Ukraine as their own, when we ignored so many conflicts in the past. There is much more. The West is the one that has polluted the world the most. The West has not been very generous with health aid during the pandemic – the EU provided more vaccines than the US, but was tougher on releasing patents. If you go back a little further, the echo of the USA’s shady maneuvers continues to reverberate, such as in the coup in Chile, the anniversary of which was recently celebrated. Or Europe, with its colonial history and what role it currently plays in places like the Sahel against France.
The responsibility is great and plays a role in the desire for change and also for revenge. It is necessary to accept a sensitive balance in international institutions, starting with economic; assume a significant corrective role in climate change; sincerely accept multilateral processes; execute impeccable immigration policy from an international law point of view.
All of this, however, does not take away one iota from Russia’s unacceptable brutality – which should be vehemently rejected by all, because past mistakes do not justify remaining defenseless in the face of current abuses – or from the poor quality of the arguments of regimes that speak volumes. , they blame a lot, but they don’t even allow their citizens to speak their minds freely.
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