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Thursday, June 20, 2024

World in crisis and transformation

By: Dr Andrej Fink

In January 2022, we still lived in a relatively peaceful world. Just a month later, on February 23rd, the turmoil erupted with the Russian aggression. All of Europe began to face refugees again. A year and a half later, on October 7th, 2023, turmoil erupted in the Middle East. The casualties number in the tens of thousands. We have become accustomed to war news and devastation from familiar images of the Second World War. The dead and suffering on the “frontlines” barely affect us anymore. Solutions to these two conflicts are not on the horizon; on the contrary, they influence each other, flare up, and spread with serious possibilities of everything spiralling into extremes. The illusions are over.

 

The inhabitants of today’s world have become so accustomed to the international system of the UN that we do not realise that this system was shattered by the Russian aggression. The international legal order as a structure is still ahead of us externally. Despite the Cold War, there was a growing sense that peaceful relations among nations were possible because of it, and war was something very distant. However, this legal structure was increasingly just that: a structure. International organisations, with the UN at the forefront, were becoming empty shells in many cases, although not all. Soon after the end of World War II, the newly established UN began to lose its power. The Soviet Union began to block it with vetoes. As an organisation created to ensure world peace, it became increasingly powerless. Critics wondered if it still made any sense. It certainly does, as it can be seen as a meeting place and a resonant forum for expressing initiatives and weak decisions. However, it never clarified the executive functions it was intended for. Hence the powerlessness. Today, the organisation has become a soulless body, a living dead, a zombie, just a framework. It remains only a sociological “structure”, actions expressed politically and rarely militarily, dependent on the current situation and the will of the larger and stronger powers.

If today in the United Nations Security Council, which has primary responsibilities for maintaining peace, a state aggressor that has attacked its neighbour is participating in decision-making, thus violating the fundamental rules of the organisation, then there is something seriously wrong here, and we are faced with a fundamental contradiction. To this, we must add the golden rule that borders in today’s world do not change. This rule is violated both in Ukraine and in Gaza. There is no longer any international order, neither legal nor social. Both wars raging today attest to this.

WHO WILL LEAD THIS SYSTEMS? THROUGHOUT HISTORY, IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE FORCES THAT EMERGED VICTORIOUS FROM THE CONFLICT.

Today, the challengers of yesterday’s international order are two or there are three. The first is Putin’s Russia because of what has been said. The others at the moment in the Middle East are Hamas (and Hizbollah) with their attack on the one hand, and Israel with their disproportionate self-defence, which shows that there is more to it than that, on the other. Article 51 of the UN Charter states that this right of self-defence exists “until the Security Council does what is necessary to maintain international peace and security,” and the member state that has exercised this right must immediately inform the Security Council of its self-defence measures, so that it can take the necessary action. With the already mentioned inoperability of the Security Council, we are in the Wild West, in lawlessness.

China, Russia, and the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and France as current permanent members of the Security Council, each have considerable relative power, but also weaknesses. China supports Putin against a common opponent but remains in the background for now. It is very careful to maintain dialogic credibility (for example, this week Xi Jinping in Paris). The West can engage with China, but not with Putin. Russia is relatively stronger only against Ukraine but would be absolutely weak against NATO in an open conflict. The United States is currently in an (pre-)election period, facing uncertainty especially with the possibility of Trump’s re-election. It is also under pressure due to the situation in Gaza and student protests in front of local universities, which are spreading worldwide. On the other hand, the EU is united but also divided in many aspects. Hopefully, the parliamentary elections in June will give it some significance.

So, we are facing a new, unknown world. At this moment, nothing is clear. Both conflicts still have to evolve in some way because they have not yet. In Ukraine, Putin must not win in any way. At the same time, diplomatically speaking, Russia must not be shamefully humiliated. All major players will have to, upon the calming of hostilities – and depending on how things unfold on the battlefield – create a new system, which will undoubtedly be “heterogeneous”, as former great French expert in international relations Raymond Aron would call it. Who will lead this system? Throughout history, it has always been the forces that emerged victorious from the conflict. They will have to have something minimal in common. As mentioned, dialogue may be possible with China, but not with Putin.

However, we must be aware that political and military forces always have models, ideas, and interests in the background that will determine events and, consequently, what they want to achieve with military means during hostilities or decide what will happen and what kind of world, what kind of order, they will create for us.

The end of these two conflicts will dictate what the future actual and legal order of the world will be. A new global legal-political order has always emerged in history after major cataclysms, usually wars of broad dimensions. This unique “war”, which already encompasses everything, has not yet fully ignited. Of course, we do not want this, but we know that the difficulties in stopping it are very great. We must be prepared for the “day after”.

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