By Iran Review
By Behzad Khoshandam*
The international system is dynamic and non-static. The conflict and rivalry among big powers, which existed like the fire under the ashes, and also the spectre of the fallen Berlin Wall finally showed their ominous presence in the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The crisis in Ukraine proves that a country like Iran must take the fluidity of the world order and the polarity of the international system more seriously.
In terms of historical developments and genealogy, the root cause of Ukraine’s crisis must be sought in the Crimean War (1853-1856), the World War I (1914-1918), the World War II (1939-1945), and the Cold War era (1945-1989) as well as in later color revolutions, especially the Orange Revolution in Ukraine following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This crisis has historical, strategic, security, psychological, economic, identity-related, political, and energy reasons in addition to enjoying considerable driving forces. Therefore, on the basis of these macro indices, some major reasons behind the breakout of this crisis can be explained as follows:
1. Distribution of power among political actors and absence of fixed power poles within the subsystems of international security system, especially instability of strategic relations between Russia and the West, which, as put by Samuel Huntington, made the US “the lonely superpower” in the post-Cold War era;
2. Inefficiency of such important international organizations and institutions as the UN, the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the G7 for the management of this international crisis;
3. Historical realities resulting from the ideals of Peter the Great, which prompted Russian politicians to try to conquer free waters in order to secure a foothold for Russia’s strategic interference at international level, as opposed to what Kissinger has described the “demonization of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” by the West;
4. Existence of centrifugal tendencies in countries considered as Russia’s near abroad following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and absence of a centripetal force among the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States;
5. Playing the role of godfather by big powers in Eastern Europe’s developments, the superimposed process of westernization; and Russia’s geopolitics-based approach to foreign policy;
6. NATO’s eastward expansion and the Western bloc’s excessive urge to conquer new strategic fronts in such regions as Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and Asia, which have been collectively described by John J. Mearsheimer as “the liberal delusions that provoked Putin; and
7. The existence of Russia’s biggest naval base on the coasts of the Black Sea as well as West’s aggressiveness in challenging Russia’s national interests in this region.
This crisis proved that Russia is very sensitive about the presence of its Western rivals in those spheres that Moscow considers its own civilizational and racial spheres. On this basis, Russia is trying to redefine its lost strategic identity and influence at the beginning of the Third Millennium by taking advantage of proxy wars as a tool.
Now, if players involved in this crisis don’t show self-restraint, the crisis in Ukraine is capable of turning into an acute international crisis whose widespread consequences would affect various actors. Different dimensions of this crisis show that despite tactical cooperation in creating the new world order following the Cold War, relations between the United States and Russia are still lacking in serious strategic tolerance away from requirements of the so-called “reset” strategy.
Ukraine’s crisis shows that the sovereign expanse, power, influence, might, racial and identity-related borders, and in some cases geographical borders in the geopolitical spheres of Eurasia and Russia’s near abroad are still in the process of changing. This crisis is also notable and worthy of profound analysis due to its role in reproducing strategic rivalries and introducing a new configuration for large-scale political ideologies on the two sides of the world.
Since the outset of the crisis in Ukraine, while declaring its large-scale strategy of “impartiality” toward developments in transregional civilizational spheres, including in Ukraine, Iran has shown reaction to this crisis with a cooperative and peaceful spirit in its foreign policy, which is based on the fundamental logic that requires more attention to the world order and international stability.
A country like Iran, which considers itself, as put by Graham Fuller, as “the center of the universe,” is very sensitive about rivalry among big powers in transregional civilizational spheres. Since the very beginning, Iran has continuously monitored developments related to military operations and negotiations in such crises as that of Ukraine, while expressing its dissatisfaction with violent nature of this crisis, which stands in contrast to the accepted principles of the United Nations and humanitarian norms.
Iran’s public opinion and political elites believe that crises like the one in Ukraine can be resolved through such measures as the Mink agreement and also through peaceful means of resolving international crises on the basis of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and diplomacy.
Since the outset of Ukraine’s crisis, Iran has denounced spread of violence at international level while emphasizing the importance of active participation of all regional and international actors in rapid management of this crisis. Iran has also voiced concern over prevalence of violent approaches at international and regional levels since the crisis in Ukraine started, up to the achievement of the nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Following the achievement of the Iran deal on July 14, 2015, the country believes that management of Ukraine’s crisis hinges on such parameters as the new world order, and as put by Walter Russell Mead, “the return of geopolitics” and promotion of future cooperation among Russia, China and Iran in Eurasia, in addition to international cooperation and emergence of soft balance at regional and international levels. Iran is also aware of the ongoing give-and-take between the United States and Russia, through Washington’s approach to Ukraine’s crisis and Moscow’s approach to Syria crisis, which lead to the subsequent mutual exchange of concessions between these two actors in the light of the balance of terror.
From the viewpoint of Iran, the crisis in Ukraine becomes meaningful in the context of the larger image of future developments of international order and diplomacy at the level of the management of international system. Last but not least, the most important lesson of Ukraine crisis for Iran, Ukraine itself, and other international actors is to make correct use of diplomacy to solve international crises, and also to to make the most of their regional roles and adapt those roles to the emerging world order.
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues