The Political Winds of Our Time, They Are A-Changin’

The world is changing – with superpowers stacking the decks against each other, the issue of Crimea and the annexation thereof to Russia has escalated from a geopolitical crisis to a situation of which the consequences threaten to entirely change the political climate we have become accustomed too since the end of the Cold War.

As a response to the annexation of the Crimea and the absorbing thereof by Russia on the 21st of March 2014, the world, a little over a week ago, on the 28th of March (and for the first time since 1998, when Russia was welcomed into the G-8 fold), saw the United States of America, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Japan return to Cold War-era format. 

Photo Credits: Getty Images
Photo Credits: Getty Images

The G-7, while halting their 16-year collaboration with the Russian Federation, chose to hold a summit in The Hague (the Netherlands) where they not only revoked Russia’s membership but additionally boycotted the G-8 summit, which was to be held in Sochi in June but that will now (without the attendance of Russia) be held in Brussels. The G7 also released a press statement, named the Hague Declaration, in which the world’s leading industrial powers reiterated that they remained “…ready to intensify actions including coordinated sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation…”.

And yet Russia has remained relatively un-phased by the move, its Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, even going as far as stating that “…if our Western partners believe that such format (G8) is no longer needed, so be it. We aren’t clinging for that format and we won’t see a big problem if there are no such meetings for a year, or a year-and-half…”. A statement that has, while not come as a shock, still surprised many. How can Russia remain so calm in the face of potential sanctions? What will the effect of a so-to-speak internationally co-ordinated coldshoulder be? Most importantly, has this move proven to checkmate Russia?

Surprisingly, it has not.

Amidst the heavily reported situation in Crimea, Ukraine and the heightened tensions amongst the West and Russia, a facet of this story that has remained adumbrated is the (not so) quiet growing support that Russia has been receiving. This support has in no shortage come from Russia’s fellow BRICS members; Brazil, India, China and South Africa. These countries showed their unanimous backing of Putin and Russia’s actions, with regards to the Ukraine situation, at a meeting for the respective representatives of the BRICS in The Hague at the Nuclear Security Summit, after the Foreign Minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, suggested that Australia might consider revoking Russia’s invitation to participate in the G-20 Summit that will take place in Brisbane in November of this year. Replying to Australia in a stern manner, these nations all but drew the line in the sand with regards to what would be tolerated and what would not be tolerated as far as isolating and banishing Russia from international forums went.

Photo Credits:  Rogan Ward/Reuters
Photo Credits: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Exert of the Chairperson’s statement on the BRICS foreign Minister Meeting Help on the 24th of March in The Hague, Netherlands:

“…The Ministers noted with concern, the recent media statement on the forthcoming G20 Summit to be held in Brisbane in November 2014.  The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all Member States equally and no one Member State can unilaterally determine its nature and character…”

“…The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter…”

This support was further solidified on the 27th of March when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted on a resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Though adopted, with one hundred countries casting their vote in favor, fifty-eight abstaining (including all BRIC nations with the exception of Russia who voted against) and 11 against – this vote has becomes a focal point and the very example that the winds of the 21st century’s political climate may (turn/) change.

While many have speculated that the abstaining and votes cast against this resolution are a result of nations that have strong ties, both social and economic, to Russia – one cannot help but wonder if many of these nations, while not necessarily supporting Russia, voted in such a manner to portray how weary they are becoming or are of the Wests’ actions.

This reasoning could potentially explain why, for example, the BRICS nations have stood so resolute by Russia’s side, even though most (if not all) BRIC members in their own right face the danger of regions wishing to follow suit when it comes to the example set by Crimea…

Though the ending and potential solution of this; an issue that is becoming an international question and defining moment in the 21st century, is nowhere near in sight, the questions remain: how far and for how long will the West be able to take it’s (threats of) sanctions without hurting its own economy and populations? Will other regions follow Crimea’s example of succession from Ukraine?

Was the vote on the UN General Assembly Resolution the first sign that the West is loosing its support or that there have indeed been long developing cracks which have slowly broken the strong foundation upon which the political stage (super powers and all included) of our times and post Cold War era was founded? Is it time, and are the winds changing?

Ultimately these questions and their answers might prove to be the very sparks that United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, warned the world community of, as they could potentially ignite larger flames and, in doing, so lead to unintended (and unforeseen) consequences.

Rebekka Boonen.

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