By Prof. Silverio Allocca (DIPLOMATICINFO.COM GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST)
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the world breathed a sigh of relief: the risk of thermonuclear conflict seemed to have receded for good, giving way to an age of peace and close cooperation among the various countries heralding collaborations-finally free of threats-that would progressively enable everyone to improve their economic conditions, educational levels and quality of life for their citizens.
The dream was short-lived: Washington, unfortunately, as denounced even by such prominent U.S. observers as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the distinguished scholar Noam Chomsky in speaking of the causes of the current conflict and Western responsibilities , wanted to read it, myopically, as the great opportunity to assume global leadership by rejecting any proposal of cooperation put forward by Moscow according to a strategy that under Obama and then under Trump has been all a succession of actions aimed at containing, when not even zeroing out, any aspiration of Moscow to gain visibility and a role in the framework of a polycentric international policy.
The deterioration of U.S. and EU relations with Russia that occurred in the early years of the 21st century was brought about by the emergence of growing disagreements over a number of specific issues, such as the U.S. missile shield project, the internal evolution of some former Soviet European states, and the final status settlement of Kosovo although a more general reason that created tensions between Russians and Westerners was a direct result of Russian President Putin’s desire to reassert, given the impossibility of a cooperative relationship with the West, Russian national interests at both the European and global levels.
It is a choice that has seen Russia decisively aiming to regain at least partial international prestige and influence lost in the years immediately following the breakup of the USSR due to excessively renunciatory and surrendering policies towards the West, deploying a strategy motivated by the ambition to gain greater economic and political influence not only in the ‘near abroad’ but also in Eastern Europe, sometimes speciously qualifying certain of its choices and questionable initiatives as a reaction to what it has denounced as Western, particularly American, unilateralism.
The rest is recent history: the lack of intellectual honesty that we have been able to record over the years in both the U.S. and the vassal European Union has proved to be a pollutant of relations within the U.S.-NATO-EU triad and of the latter with Moscow, which has resulted in a progressive hardening of the intransigent positions of both sides, which as far as the Kremlin is concerned has produced increasingly assertive attitudes counterbalanced by similar stances of a West hitherto unable to define a common response to the Russian challenge because of the irreconcilability of the different interests and perceptions of the new and old EU member states.
Of an EU undermined as early as 2007 by the presence of countries like Poland and Estonia that brought as a ‘gift’ a whole series of disputes that had nothing to do with the genesis of the Europeanist project: not to mention the presence in the Community sphere of a Great Britain that over time has always been only the testimonial of U.S. interests, in fact a sort of Atlanticist Fifth Column to whose action we owe in no small part the failure to launch that project of political-military unification of the various EU member states destined to result in the constitution of those United States of Europe in fact invisible even to Moscow for obvious and understandable reasons.
Hence, for example, the postponement, in the early years of the current century, of the renewal of the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, i.e., that new agreement should have contained, among other things, greater guarantees on the security and stability of energy supplies to Europe from Russia, supplies that a part of Europe wanted to see, albeit with legitimate suspicion, as an energy-related political weapon placed in the hands of the Russian government while failing, however, to grasp Russia’s speculative dependence on exports to Europe of its own products and energy, the marketing of which has always played such a large part in shaping GDP.
The agenda needed to avoid the crescendo of unnecessary contention still in 2007 envisioned three possible scenarios: (i) smoothing out major differences and reviving cooperation; (ii) persistent disagreements in Europe and other areas, but without traumatic ruptures; and (iii) aggravation of tensions and gradual emptying of cooperation mechanisms, none of which was implemented.
In the meantime, in fact, the gradual emergence of China as a possible competitor has further altered international balances to the point of the direct confrontation we are currently witnessing, which, by sum reproposes in foreign policy all those strategies typical of the pre-globalization era.
This process, which by its very nature leads to increasing interdependence between states and geographic areas-and which, if ever there was a need to do so-showed its limits already in the early days of the pandemic, when all the problems related also to the relocation of production became apparent, is currently experiencing an impasse: having a China “factory of the world” monopolistically controlling the rare earths market; as well as having the entire world industry that employs electronic chips depend on supplies from Taiwan for 98 percent of the most sophisticated ones (of military use as well) and so on, is something that the Trump presidency had already tried to remedy when it invited U.S. companies based abroad to return home, a return that it has tried to encourage, albeit with little success, with the tax reform introduced at the time and now being cancelled due to the negative effects on GDP.
The Biden administration itself, not surprisingly, is currently working in this direction as sanctions lead countries adhering to them to have to make choices that favor a return to free trade yes, but within a more restricted framework: a bit like in the days of the Cold War.
Now, on the understanding that certain interconnections are not eliminated from one year to the next, it goes without saying that the current choices do not proceed in the direction of greater integration in a global sense, nor do certain apparent more distensive attitudes mislead.
To understand this better consider, for example, the U.S.-China dispute : Biden has recently taken to stalling by extending his hand to Beijing but at the same time both Beijing and Washington are aiming to intensify domestic chip production.
This state of affairs takes place against the backdrop of an intense proliferation of official trips and diplomatic missions having Africa as their destination: not only the great powers, but also countries such as Turkey, Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Iran, Israel, and Egypt have interests in what to all intents and purposes is shaping up as the continent of the future.
It is no coincidence that in December last year the United States organized a very successful summit. In Dakar, African leaders expressed concern about food insecurity: an area where Europe can play a key role.
By strokes of official trips, summits and economic missions, the new “scramble for Africa,” the race for the continent, is unfolding, and it is not just about the struggle for African resources, such as mineral and agricultural raw materials, but primarily about political influence.
Indeed, China, Russia and the United States are fighting to win African votes at the United Nations and in all other international fora because of the knowledge that from here on out it will not be possible to do without a continent destined to become the most populous by the end of this century. There is also the energy issue: very important for China, average for Russia, almost not at all for the now autonomous US.
Alongside the three superpowers already firmly present on the continent, there are the middle powers such as Turkey, Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Iran, Israel, and Egypt, all countries for whom the priority issue is only partly economic, but above all securitarian so that ports, military bases and dual use (commercial and military) of infrastructure are the keys to projecting themselves onto the continent, where having allies is essential.
And finally, there is India, a great power in the making that has not yet decided what to do with the continent, although it can count on an important presence of Africans of Indian origin in the eastern part of the continent.
Of Europe, historically entrenched economically, very active on the humanitarian front (the EU is the largest donor) but undecided on policy, with, to top it all, a retreating France and a Germany, Italy and Spain in a perpetual waiting position, given that Italy’s so-called Mattei plan – for now only energy and concerning in particular the Mediterranean countries and the Mena (Middle East North Africa) region, with which a migration containment plan is also under discussion- in the light of current facts seems to be just one more key for Washington’s exclusive use and consumption, very little there is to say.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prof. Silverio Allocca, Italian by birth, freelance Researcher and Analyst formerly of IBI World Ltd, is also a freelance journalist. Currently, articles from his dossiers written on commission for NGOs, Governmental Entities, Networks, Primary Law Offices, Economic Institutions… are published in six languages (in Italy in two online newspapers: Gli Stati Generali and NGN-Nuovo Giornale Nazionale). He is a graduate of Theoretical Physics, Prof. of electronics, electrical engineering and on-board automation for civilian and military aircraft, trainer of ENAC certified aircraft maintenance engineers (LMA), financial consultant expert in macroeconomic analysis; he writes on geopolitics, history, communication techniques and physics.
Prof. Allocca, has excellent knowledge of written and spoken English. He can be reached on: email@example.com
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