The outcome of the Ukraine war will pave the way for geopolitical changes in “Eurasia” which will undoubtedly determine the future of the world in the first half of the 21st century. Over the last five centuries all of the recent world hegemons from the Portuguese and Spaniards to the French, Dutch, British, Germans, and now the Americans all have one thing in common, and that is their domination of the vast and important Eurasian region. Their rivalry for domination over Eurasia was concurrent with the rise of the United States after World War II. The decline of previous powers, from Napoleon to Hitler, began with the loss of direct or indirect control of this region. This is a strategic fact that has had general and specific examples in the last 500 years.
After the end of World War II, the rivalry over the domination of Eurasia intensified, and tensions heightened. The events that have taken place in the past centuries and decades or are taking place in this vast region show that geopolitics still plays a key role in establishing and maintaining the supremacy of world powers, and in fact, it is geography that plays a major role in the international.
Atlantic Council studies in 2001 also defined a territory called “Central Eurasia” that borders the Black Sea to the west, China to the east, Russia to the north, and Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to the south. Whenever the United States wants to play its global role and continue its leadership, it must emphasize its leading role in Eurasia. But the prerequisite for preserving America’s supremacy in Eurasia is to create and then maintain a balance of power there and prevent the emergence of a power or powers that can influence the United States‘ policies.
In the past, the Soviet Union’s dominance left little room for maneuver for the United States. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the separation of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Caucasus republics from Russian territory, and the disintegration of the Balkans the United States found the opportunity to gradually expand its influence in Eastern Europe, especially through NATO, and to move closer to the walls of the Russian Federation.
Now, with the rise of Putin in Russia and the crisis in Ukraine, geopolitical rivalries in the region have intensified and greater war is imminent. From 1991 to 2000 when the Eastern bloc collapsed, a power vacuum and uncertainty dominated the region. Since 2001, following the 9/11 tragedy and the Bush Jr. reaction to form a global coalition against terrorism, the West established stronger domination over the region. The rivalry between world powers over central Eurasia will intensify again.
In a two-hour telephone conversation, Biden firmly warned the Chinese president about the consequences of Beijing’s economic and military aid to Russia. It seems; however, that the conversation has proved futile and Xi Jinping has ignored the warning as the situation in Ukraine is taking a turn for worse. Xi effectively blamed the United States for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and asserted that it is the US and NATO’s advance on Russia’s borders and the threat to its security that led to the Ukraine war. Xi has actually reaffirmed the statement Putin and he issued at the opening of the Asian Games through which they emphasized establishing a new world order and countering US hegemony via strategic cooperation in the fields of energy and technology.
Given the circumstances, it is abundantly clear that the current United States will not be able to easily influence the alliance formed between China and Russia. Although the strategic ties between Beijing and Russia are not permanently stable and face many challenges and obstacles, they are the product of more than three decades of interaction and comprehensive calculations between Beijing and Moscow focused on a common enemy that is the United States. Therefore, the relations between these Eastern powers are not much influenced by the everyday developments around the world.
In fact, the close cooperation between Beijing and Moscow means that the two countries are working together to establish a new world order. Since the invasion of Ukraine, China has not limited its relations with Russia, has not put any kind of pressure on Russia, has not blamed it, and has not considered Russia’s operation in Ukraine a “military aggression.” This is implying that Beijing is recognizing Moscow’s security concerns in Ukraine and considers them legitimate. Furthermore, China’s position on Ukraine indicates that this war has not changed its long-term geopolitical strategy which is cooperation with Russia and gaining more influence in Eurasia to break down the hegemony of the United States and its allies.
In early March, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and 32 other countries abstained on the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Also, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called NATO a “Cold War leftover” and criticized the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries. China believes that the West is using the process of globalization as a weapon against others.
Thus, the direction of geopolitical change has become a concern for the Western world and they have no choice but to respond to it either militarily and/or economically. Not only have Western leaders been closely watching these changes in NATO, G7, and the European Union, but also they planned and pushed for NATO’s relentless advances in Russia-sensitive security areas Ukraine, Baltic, and Balkan.
At the height of the crisis, Biden arrived in Brussels on March 24 to attend a NATO summit, and after a trip to Poland and a closer look at developments in Ukraine, called for Putin to step down. But if Putin succeeds in the Ukraine and China provides economic and even arms-logistic support to Moscow, then the Beijing-Moscow axis of domination over Eurasia will be completed and the US sphere of influence will be broken. This is while the United States has dominated Eurasia since the beginning of the Cold War and over these decades and has gone out of its way to expand and strengthen its domination with the deployment of ground, naval, and air forces, and a variety of defense alliances and military maneuvers.
Another important point is that Russia is the largest exporter of energy in the world and China is the largest importer. Thus China, in its trades with Russia, can gradually weaken the dominance of the dollar as the world’s most important foreign exchange reserve. The US dollar has been by far the most important global currency reserve since 1944, following the Bretton Woods Conference, and since 1971, when former President Nixon suspended the convertibility of the dollar into gold. Oil is a strong supporter of the US dollar among all world commodities, and if the dollar is gradually replaced by other currencies in global transactions, the dollar will lose its dominant role in global foreign exchange reserves. This is the biggest risk for the core component of US power as the world’s hegemon.
The imposition of US chain sanctions against the countries of the world, which have been very acute and unilateral in recent years, will lead to the formation of new global currency blocs to counter the sanctions. This will certainly affect the prestigious global position of the US dollar in the future. Since 2015, as the Chinese currency was recognized by the International Monetary Fund, the Chinese government has taken effective and continuous measures for the Chinese yuan to play a greater role in international markets.
The new war in Europe has also woken up European leaders and the wounds of decades of lethargy, addiction, and dependence on a variety of energy sources and raw materials imported from Russia are now opening up. The fact is that no policy in the European Union has been as ineffectual as the so-called Common Energy Policy for more than sixty years. Members of the EU cannot work as a team when it comes to their need for energy supplies. Now, at the height of the war in Ukraine, each country is rushing and looking for alternatives in vain. Europe is following the US energy policy ambitions while Moscow’s energy relations with Europe have not been disrupted during the Soviet era, the Cold War, or in the last three decades. Also, over the seventy years after the war, Moscow has never cut off Europe’s energy.
The fact about this sham energy dispute between Russia and Europe is that Germany and Italy can not hold up under severe pressure from energy and steel imports due to the Russian boycott. In addition to the special geopolitical situation and political and security considerations in the field of energy and steel, the two countries have no way but to wait for the situation to calm down. Importing liquefied natural gas from Qatar and the United States is also expensive and unsafe, and its regular delivery requires additional and massive structures. So replacing Russian gas is neither easy nor cheap and fast.
*Sarah Neumann is a professor of political science at teaches political science courses at Universities in Germany.