Photo taken on Dec. 8, 2022 shows the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has lasted for more than a year, can be seen as a landmark event marking a transition in the post-Cold War era.
The unbridled consumption of the Cold War "dividends" by the United States and Western countries has eventually led to the outbreak of war. The peaceful end of the Cold War with the dissolution of the Soviet Union fostered optimism among the United States and the West about "the end of history." The once serious formulation and implementation of diplomatic strategies during the Cold War decades has been degraded into frivolous appendages of domestic politics.
The United States and its allies have been squeezing Russia's strategic interests in exchange for their own domestic electoral political gains, and the systematic proliferation of an international order based on Western individualism has empowered the Western public with a false perception that the West can do whatever it wants in the world. That has fueled contradictions and caused the outbreak of the conflict.
What Russia has been through since the fall of the Berlin Wall to the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has proved that it is impossible to be truly accepted by the United States and the West.
In fact, one of the misconceptions of the Russian elites after the dissolution of the Soviet Union is that the United States and the West would really accept Russia as a member of Western society, and recognize and respect the interests and demands of Russia as a major country. However, the reality is that they would not accept those demands from a country that was not as strong as they were, and would certainly deny a "newcomer" even though it embraced a Western ideology and political system. Continuous concession and flattery eventually drove Russia into a corner and into greater strategic passivity.
A world with hegemonism and power politics cannot truly overcome or transcend the security dilemma. After the Cold War, the United States and its allies continued to practice hegemonism and power politics in fine disguise. One of the core features is their pursuit of absolute security.
On Washington's wish list in the post-Cold War era is it wants to enjoy absolute advantages in strength and absolute freedom to act, and accepts no restrictions. It does not allow other countries to grow beyond its psychological threshold, or to resist its bullying behavior. In other words, the United States seeks its own absolute security at the expense of keeping others insecure.
Such a goal, as well as the pursuit of it are simply pathological and cannot be sustained over the long run. It will foster continuous resistance, triggering conflicts in the end. To overcome the security dilemma and achieve lasting peace and security, it is necessary to eliminate the risks and challenges brought by hegemonism and power politics.
Of course, the state of anarchy and the principle of strength are objective facts in the international community. The United States and the West still follow the logic of self-centrism. The international system, mechanisms and order, in their eyes, remain their tools.
It should be noted that emerging countries represented by China are more willing to transcend the above-mentioned classical realism in the international situation, while America and its allies are more inclined to mouth high-sounding words, but do not hesitate to follow egoism and take unilateral actions and form small circles.
It is typical for America and the West to continuously oppress challengers and threats from a position of strength and seek to maximize their interests, instead of conducting reciprocal negotiations on the basis of respecting sovereignty and equal interests.
Fear or simply hiding will not get rid of wars. A comprehensive and systematic promotion of strength is the key to effectively deterring wars. The United States and the West are very sensitive to strength, and one of their core principles is to avoid direct conflict with actors capable of striking them at home.
If the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, there is a high probability that it will become a war of attrition to see who will be exhausted first.
Compared with Europe and the United States, Russia's overall strength has only few edges. Still, specifically on the Ukraine front, it's hard to tell whether the resources Russia is willing and able to invest are inferior to those the United States and Europe can mobilize and use or not.
The whole scale of resources of Europe and the United States is large, but that does not equal a disposable and sustainable scale. The continuation of attrition may have some dramatic influence and effect on the overall situation in the foreseeable future.
It is inevitable that the energy, food and global industrial chain will be affected by the spillover of the adverse effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe have caused significant disruptions, but the global economic system has proven its resilience and flexibility. On the whole, in addition to Russia and Ukraine, the whole world, including America and Europe, has been suffering from the adverse effects caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
To eliminate these negative effects, peace talks must be promoted as soon as possible, and pouring oil on the flames must be avoided.
(Shen Yi is a professor at the School of International Relations & Public Affairs of Fudan University.)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Xinhua Institute.
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