One of the major themes of 21st century international affairs – and perhaps the most important theme – is that war has become too costly for states and their respective societies. For one, the nuclear dimension of warfare which came into the big picture in the 20th century fosters a strategic context of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD), which in turn imposes incalculable costs for all-out war. Second, the sheer advancement of weaponry – along with the insertion of cyber warfare into the big picture as well as the rapid advancements of technology which have come into the picture in the 21st century – increase the costs of war exponentially.
Therefore, escalations, provocations, and war games on the part of Western states have to be balanced with the broader strategic context of their actions and pursuits as well as with the realization that the costs of war significantly outweigh the benefits of war in this day and age, and the costs grow more and more over time.
In turn, Asian diplomacy will grow increasingly important because of the Asian focus on economic and social development, as opposed to the Western focus on politicking and warmongering which has now manifested in the recent tensions between Russia and the West. As things stand, there is little to nothing that the West can do to control Vladimir Putin’s actions and decisions. China is perhaps the only country with some sort of leverage over Russia, and thus China is the only country who can impact Russia’s actions and decisions. But as things stand, China supports Russia’s security concerns, and China is demonstrating the growing weight that Asian diplomacy will have in international affairs in the coming years. Moreover, one would doubt that China would sacrifice its steady supply of energy from Russia because of Ukraine.
The only thing that might deter Putin from taking some sort of action against Ukraine is global public opinion. But one would doubt that Putin would be fazed by global public opinion, especially when Putin intertwines his actions and his will with Russian national interests. After all, global public opinion was riding high last year when Myanmar’s military overthrew its civilian government, and in the end, global public opinion fizzled out over time. Many people have short memories, and not everyone takes a long view of history. If people tended to have a long view of history, people would hold the neocons to account for what they did in the early years of the 21st century.
And in the end, all of this is quite pointless and also very embarrassing for Western countries who claim to be “civilized” and “advanced” and “sophisticated” and who elevate themselves over Middle Eastern and Asian peoples. Dramatic, histrionic, cunning, and deceitful news anchorwomen from a variety of news outlets, as well as cross-eyed television pundits may get a short-lived kick out of all of this. But in the end, all of it amounts to nothingness. Plus, war and commerce cannot coexist. People and states either have to choose war or commerce. They cannot hold two watermelons in one hand. The only ones who stand to gain from a continental war in Europe because of Ukraine are a handful of weapons merchants in Washington who are outright savages. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the reality of economic interdependence will mitigate and suppress the outright savagery of certain individuals and groups in the days, months, and years ahead.