September 22, 2014

A Hundred Years Later

Early this year, people started to talk about the common features of world politics between 1914 and 2014.

Early this year, people started to talk about the common features of world politics between 1914 and 2014.
As in 1914, there are countries that are not content with their current position on the world stage, the existing world order or system of international relations. A hundred years ago, Germany was the main power that wanted to make political realities more convenient for itself. This year, both China and Russia have been seen in that role.
China has been acting more aggressively in its neighbourhood by establishing unilateral no-fly zones and having ever-more heated debates with the other countries in the region—especially Japan—about the ownership of one territory or another. All of this has been accompanied by military spending that rises year on year and the increasing activity of the Chinese armed forces in Asia. The balance of power that developed in Asia after the end of World War II obviously no longer satisfies Beijing, which believes that the Pacific region should be recognised as a Chinese “sphere of influence”.
For years, Russia has publicly demanded that the rest of the world recognise the borders of the former Soviet Union as Moscow’s “zone of legitimate interest”, i.e. an area where Russia can act at its sole discretion, and into which annoying foreigners—westerners in general and Americans in particular—refrain from poking their noses. If foreigners do interfere, they should do so only with the knowledge and approval of Moscow. The fact that Russia is ready to use brutal and direct military force against its neighbouring countries to achieve its goals became clear in 2008 with the campaign against Georgia. Russia’s current hybrid war against Ukraine only confirms the dark conclusions drawn at that time.
What seems more important than territorial “spheres of influence” and immediate political goals in the eyes of the Russian top management is a thorough revision of the current internationally recognised rulebook—creating a situation in which the international community accepts one primary and simple rule when communicating with Russia. This is Russia’s right to establish its own rules at its sole discretion.
Against the aforementioned background, there is also such an outbreak of nationalism and chauvinism simmering in Russian society that it could have stepped out of the pages of a history book describing the beginning of the 20th century. The mentality of the current Girkins, Babais and their supporters is a carbon copy of the ideology of the Black Hundreds (in Russian: черносотенцы, чёрная сотня), who organised pogroms in Russia a century ago. Both in the past and today, these movements were and are supported and favoured by state authority.
At the same time, there are literally thugs dressed in black in the Middle East, who have conquered almost half of Iraq at amazing speed, in addition to the areas in Syria that were already under their control. A “caliphate”, where Allah’s will is the supreme authority, has been declared and offensives continue to be launched in the areas of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds. These men in black, too, wish for nothing more or less than to destroy the existing world order.


This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.

Filed under: Commentary