It’s Complicated

Thus, the argument can go either way, in the sense that both class and culture are the defining features of international affairs, and both carry their own level of weight in determining the dynamics of international affairs. One way of overcoming class and cultural differences in the international system is by establishing a rules-based international order whereby different nations and societies abide by a commonly agreed-upon set of norms and rules which govern economic, political, and social affairs. However, the interpretation of these norms and rules are different for each nation and society because of class and cultural differences. For instance, an interpretation of “democracy” or an interpretation of “freedom of expression” will be different in England or Germany than in Russia or China.

Because there is no overarching neutral enforcer of the norms and rules of the international order, and given that the interpretation of these norms and rules differ because of class and cultural differences, what everyone is left with is power on one hand and persuasion on the other hand. Thus, power – along with persuasion – are the major currencies of international affairs and international relations. Thus, in addition to norms and rules, the most important force in international affairs and international relations is the ‘balance of power’ principle.

Because of these complexities in international affairs, the most talked about issue in the international media at the present moment – namely, the tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine – becomes increasingly intriguing by the day. For one, Russia is juxtaposed between both the West and the East in terms of ‘balance of power’ dynamics. Russia has commercial and trade relations with Europe, but it is also culturally and socially immersed in the Eastern world. Ukraine is the reason why Russia has grown more “Eastern” over the course of approximately the last eight years. Russia was very much a neutral body between East and West before the political upheaval in Ukraine which took place in 2014. As a result of the political upheaval in Ukraine beginning in 2014 – which the West supported – Russia grew closer with China and thus the Eastern world.

Moreover, Russia’s growing interconnection and interdependence with China poses problems for the Western world. Although Russia is not as economically and technologically advanced as the West, Russia is a serious political and military force in international affairs. When one combines Russia’s political and military acumen with China’s economic and social power, the West ends up in a dilemma that is only exacerbated by the West’s involvement in Ukraine. Plus, Ukraine and Russia are essentially joined by the hip in terms of commercial and cultural ties and by virtue of being neighbors with one another.

Therefore, if the West continues using Ukraine as a prod to poke at Russia and to provoke Russia, the result will be a solidification of ties between Russia and China. In turn, a solidification of ties between Russia and China at a time when the global ‘balance of power’ is in favor of China will be disadvantageous and problematic for the West. Thus, both Russia and the West have to tread carefully over the issue of Ukraine, because the stakes over Ukraine are quite high for both sides.

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