September 29, 2022

The Western hegemonic paradox

Source: NPR, File photo

What’s now to see is the answer to the question mentioned above, on how can the West finds the best way to tackle Russia on Ukraine with the result being the continuation of an unchallenged Western hegemony.

By Yash Agarwal

In recent months, Russia has deployed a large military force along its border with Ukraine, heightening fears of an invasion of Ukraine.

The crisis stems from the geo-political position of the Ukrainian Peninsula in eastern Europe.

Long considered as a protege of the Russians, Ukraine has lately shifted allegiances to the West (read: since 2014).

The threat of non-renewal of the port of Sevastopol, saw Russia annexing Crimea (where Sevastopol is situated) and thus protecting its geo political interest in the Black Sea (Seva being the only warm water port in Russia).

Also, shifting allegiances was the Ukrainian Donbass region (east Ukraine) with high Russian speaking ethnicity, who have created a civil war between the West leaning Ukraine government and the Donbass leadership, which is being militarily being supported by the Russians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently called out the West (mainly the NATO) for their eastward expansion in Europe. He sees it as an attempt to encircle the Russian regime.
The Russians have on many occasions conveyed to the West to respect Russia’s ‘red lines’ in doing so.

The other being the US-led military drills in Black Sea which Putin claims to be too near the Russian border.

Now, what has perplexed the West is the question to how to respond to the Ukraine challenge.

The West has tried for decades to keep the Russian influence around the world limited and has achieved some measure of success in this.

The Ukraine crisis could be referred to as Russia’s own Cuban Missile crisis, where it is seeing a hegemon rival trying to penetrate its “Sphere of Influence”.

The Ukraine crisis could be referred to as Russia’s own Cuban Missile crisis, where it is seeing a hegemon rival trying to penetrate its “Sphere of Influence”.

So, the question begs an answer to how to respond to the Russians exerting their influence in its neighbourhood. We have already seen aggressive Russian actions on its neighbours in the past, namely Crimea 2014 and Georgia 2008. But these actions had caught the West by surprise and thus limited their intervention in these events. On the other hand, the current Ukraine crisis has provided the Western leadership enough time and space to respond to the crisis.

The problem is: How far can you push Russia without actually starting a war?

American President Joe Biden has already said his administration was not considering sending U.S. troops to Ukraine amid an alarming Russian military build-up on its shared border.

NATO seems highly unlikely to be willing to get itself involved militarily in order to protect its ally Ukraine.

This leaves very little choice for the West to actually meaningfully intervene to protect its interests in Ukraine.

As what has been suggested by Biden, that the West would rather impose significant economic sanctions on the Russia institutions including its biggest banks which it has avoided so far. These sanctions also might include kicking the Russian banking system of the SWIFT.

These economic sanctions will be “like none he’d ever seen” cutting Russia off from the global electronic-payment-messaging system known as SWIFT.

But to be sure, the so called ‘planned Russian invasion of Ukraine’ doesn’t include the invasion of the whole territory of the country but rather the eastern Ukrainian region which has high Russian speaking ethnicity.

The main Russian interests might involve annexing of the Donbass region and a part of the southern Ukraine in order to get direct land connectivity with the Sevastopol port (in Crimea) with the Russian mainland, which is a lifeline of Russians in the tough winter months, both for its economy and military.

This will also create a buffer zone (Donbass) for the Russians between the Russian mainland and the NATO presence in eastern Europe in order to safeguard its interests.

It is to be noted as the Russians have been claiming that this isn’t an aggression on the part of Russia, but rather it is only securing its geo political interests from the eastward expansion of NATO, thus trying to claim the moral high ground.

But the question still stands, what can the West do about it?

As from what we can see today, the European Union (EU) is increasingly becoming dependant on the Russians for their energy security (read: Nord Stream 2).

EU has warned Putin on several diplomatic exchanges that they won’t tolerate an invasion of Ukraine and that they will respond with heavy economic sanctions including on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which is of great economic benefit of the Russian government.

But at the same time, the said pipeline is of even more economic significance for the EU. Inflation and energy shortage in Europe might limit their stand against Russia. It is known fact that foreign policy stands do ultimately give up to domestic pressure on their respective governments. Thus, creating a massive paradox for the West to tackle Russia.

Russian President Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a video call on December 15 where the Chinese supported the Russian effort to maintain their ‘sphere of influence’ around its borders.

Giving in on Ukraine reduced the American hegemony around the globe but it also created a precedent for China in reference to Taiwan.

Giving in on Ukraine reduced the American hegemony around the globe but it also created a precedent for China in reference to Taiwan.

You give in once and it’ll become even more harder for the Americans to protect their interests in the next conflict. That’s how hegemonies work.

What’s now to see is the answer to the question mentioned above, on how can the West finds the best way to tackle Russia on Ukraine with the result being the continuation of an unchallenged Western hegemony.

A graduate from Delhi University (DU), Yash Agarwal is a young learner of diplomatic and foreign affairs. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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