Russian President Putin undoubtedly expected that his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine would be over in 48 hours at the most, with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy fleeing the country. (In this connection, let’s not forget that President Biden’s initial reaction to the invasion was to offer Zelenskyy transportation out of the country.) Now, three and a half weeks later, Kyiv is still resisting, Zelenskyy is still in Kyiv, and the invasion is essentially stalled, except for some gains in the south.
It is not too early to begin to assess what the Russian invasion will mean for the world, the Middle East and for Israel in the future. As to the world, it means the end of the post-Cold War world order. The US will continue to decline as it suffers through the fourth bad administration in a row (starting with George W. Bush), both domestically and internationally. NATO, however, will be somewhat strengthened, with the European countries finally coming to the realization that they had damned well better begin to take their defense seriously. Russia, even if it eventually defeats Ukraine, which is far from certain at this point, will be dealing with a situation where its reputation as a great power is suddenly limited to its nuclear arsenal, and nothing more. It’s economy, already pushing the size of Australia’s and lower than Italy’s, will be a shambles, its armed forces thoroughly humiliated and its influence in Europe from oil and gas exports lessened as the European countries try to wean themselves from Russian energy sources. Finally, the war, however it ends, will result in higher energy and grain prices, adding to the already serious inflation situation in the Western world.
Who will gain the most from the Ukraine conflict? Undoubtedly, China. The humiliation of Russia and the continuing decline of the US as a great power (please note that the Biden administration has refused to facilitate the provision of MIG fighter planes the Polish government generously offered to Ukraine-an addition to its fighting capacity that would have made the failure of the Russian invasion almost a certainty) leaves China alone as a rising power. Nevertheless, China, although it has been using all the instruments of statecraft with great skill in the past few years, still faces significant obstacles to its ambitions, including a newly-warlike Japan and the new US-UK-Australia coalition.
As to the world outside the Asia/Pacific region, China may be approaching the point of imperial overreach. Nevertheless, China is the nation-state to watch in the future, along with the continuing importance in international relations of non-state actors, such as the great corporations and banks, criminal and terrorist organizations, NGOs and hi-tech giants.
As to the Middle East, increased oil and gas prices will be a boon to some of the countries, and damaging to others, such as Turkey. The increase in grain prices will be a negative element in the entire region.
In geo-political terms, there will be three tendencies to monitor carefully: Turkey under Erdogan will continue to try to mend relations with Israel and the Gulf states. All the countries of the Middle East will struggle to come to an acceptable accommodation with Chinese economic and political expansionism. Finally, and by far the most important, the insane, and I use the word insane in its technical sense, desire of the Biden administration to reach a new agreement with Iran, even worse than the original "deal" of 2015, will threaten the Middle East in general and the Gulf states and Israel in particular, with an almost-certain nuclear Iran and one empowered to continue and increase its support for terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, among others.
Clearly, this is the most important issue to be faced by Israel in the post-war period, along with increased grain prices. The somewhat ambiguous position taken by the Israeli government in the face of the clearly unprovoked and illegal attack by Russia on Ukraine can be explained, if not justified, by the desire of Israel not to overturn the tacit agreement whereby Russia does not interfere with Israeli air attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Nevertheless, and this is a very personal opinion, nothing can justify the lack of a full-throated condemnation of the Russian aggression and support of the incredibly brave Ukrainian people in their resistance, as well as their wholly admirable president. The conflict between morality and reality is sometimes a difficult one to deal with, and this is certainly one such case, but when the issue arises the only justifiable decision is to do that which is morally appropriate. Perhaps Israel can redeem itself by providing the mediation needed to end the carnage. We shall see.
Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 20, 2022.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.