The Geopolitical Deadlock That Befell The World – Analysis


By He Jun

It has been a year since the war erupted in Ukraine, with hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides, yet there seems to be no end in sight. This conflict, as things stand, is a microcosm of global instability, as the world faces its darkest period and the largest-scale war since World War II. There is a surge of anti-globalization, and geopolitical factors are exerting an unprecedented depth and breadth of influence on how the world operates. Overall, humanity is facing a systemic crisis and is mired in an intractable deadlock.

Contrary to the expectations of Russia, the initiator of the war, this blitzkrieg aimed at what it claims to be “de-Nazification” and “de-militarization” has turned into a protracted war that still sees no end to it. The current general view is that it will still end in negotiations, yet it remains uncertain when this will happen.

Several countries, including China, continue to call for both sides to negotiate, while the West is pushing for Russia to withdraw its troops. However, objectively speaking, the likelihood for both sides to sign a peace agreement in the foreseeable future is extremely low. The main reason is that the differences in the conditions for negotiation between the two sides are too great, making it impossible to reach a consensus. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s goal is to regain all the territories annexed by Russia, including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. On the other hand, Russia, once regarded as the world’s second-largest military power, cannot return empty-handed after paying a high price for hundreds of thousands of casualties and squandering the military reputation accumulated since World War II. The ultimate goals of Russia and Ukraine in this war are very different, and it is indeed challenging for both sides to reach a peace agreement.

The war has evolved into a war of “the West + Ukraine” versus Russia, even though the direct parties involved are still Russia and Ukraine. Facing a nuclear power like Russia, NATO refuses to engage in a direct military conflict but fully supports Ukraine in its fight against Russia. This is not just a moral struggle over national sovereignty and values, but also a geopolitical game of strategic interests. Some Western scholars call it a “war of civilizations” that ties to the survival of the Western world. Neither side can afford to lose this war. If the conflict does not escalate into a nuclear war, though highly unlikely based on the theory of nuclear deterrence, or if there are no unexpected internal events in Russia, the war in Ukraine may continue for a long time within the realm of conventional warfare until one side runs out of military, economic or human resources and is no longer able to sustain the war, which may then lead to negotiations. Until then, the conflict may persist for a long time.

The war is not only a flashpoint of geopolitical conflict but also a turning point in the long-term deterioration of relations between Russia and the Western world. While Russia accuses Ukraine of “Nazification,” in the eyes of the United States and the West, it is Russia that has become similar to Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union was an important force in the anti-Nazi alliance during World War II and later one of the two poles in the bipolar world during the Cold War. As the largest inheritor of Soviet political heritage and sovereignty, it is a great tragedy for Russia to be seen by the West as Nazi-like, with Russians being called “global pariahs” in the words of Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff General.

From an objective point of view, the war has brought the conflict between Russia and the West to an irreconcilable level of deep-seated antagonism. Several scenarios can be envisaged: (1) long-term sanctions from the entire Western world will isolate Russia from economic, technological, financial, and energy connections with the West. In reality and rather than just looking at statistics, the Russian economy will face long-term decline and be excluded from the mainstream global economy. (2) The geopolitical and economic ties that have been formed between Russia and Europe over a long period of history will be severed, and Russia’s advantage as a continental power will be significantly weakened. (3) Russia’s “eastward strategy” in terms of economic development has limited potential, and the increase of volume in its ties to the Chinese market cannot compensate for the disappearance of the European market. The shift of the Russian economic center eastward is itself an “uneconomical” way of development. (4) Although Russia has a certain degree of resilience, it is difficult to avoid being “de-nationized”, as mentioned in ANBOUND’s previous research.

Russia has become a shared threat that triggers concerns about “collective security” in the Western world, while the U.S. has significantly enhanced its leadership within NATO. This is a major strategic loss for Russia. It should be noted that changes and impacts in the relationship between the U.S. and Europe with Russia are different, and even within Europe, there are significant differences between “new Europe” and “old Europe”. It should also be noted that Russia is not the foremost strategic competitor of the U.S. at present and in the future; it would be China that is in that position, as it is seen from the U.S. perspective. That being said, the conflict in Ukraine remains an opportunity for the U.S. to weaken Russia strategically. As Winston Churchill said, “never waste a good crisis”, if the war in Ukraine can be used to integrate NATO and significantly weaken Russia to the point where it can no longer pose a substantial threat to the West, it is undoubtedly a profitable “geopolitical business” for the U.S.

China plays no part in the war in Ukraine, nor does it have any direct connection to it. However, the war still has implications for China. In a world dominated by anti-globalization and geopolitics, the Ukraine war has accelerated changes in the global landscape. The outbreak of war acted as a catalyst, causing rapid and drastic changes in China’s relationship with the outside world. U.S.-China relations have become even tenser due to the war. The U.S. is highly vigilant about whether China will provide support to Russia; while European countries that have been hit hard by the Ukraine war have also expressed high doubts about its role and attitude. The protracted war and the already complicated geopolitical game have posed huge challenges to China’s future development. Some of these challenges cannot be resolved in the short term.

Final analysis conclusion:

Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II, the long-term peace and economic prosperity that the world once experienced is facing a reversal, and humanity has begun to plunge into the darkest hour again. In the short term, under the dominance of geopolitics, the world is falling into a deadlock that is difficult to resolve.

He Jun is a researcher at ANBOUND


Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound's research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.

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