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The Paradox of Alliances in the Global Power Struggle

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The Winter Olympics, which started in China on February 4, 2022, are not only a sports organization; it also revealed the international power struggle and the alliance relations developed in this context. Because the criticisms of the human rights violations initiated against China under the leadership of the United States of America (USA) brought along calls for a boycott of the olympics, and many states, especially the USA, England, Canada, Australia and Japan, boycotted the olympics. On the other hand, many countries, especially Russia, participated in the opening ceremony of the olympics at the level of the Presidential. This showed the polarization in international politics and was interpreted as some states choosing their side in the global power struggle.

Undoubtedly, the most remarkable person among the leaders who attended the opening ceremony of the Olympics is Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. The Russian leader’s participation in the ceremony in China carries an important message at a time when the drums of war are sounding on the Russia-Ukraine border. This message is that the alliance relations on the Moscow-Beijing line are moving to a higher level with each passing day. As a matter of fact, Putin also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of his visit. In the statement released after the meeting, the parties criticized the US setting missiles in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Also Russia; it described the AUKUS, which was established against China and made up of the USA, UK and Australia, as a worrying initiative. Beijing, on the other hand, declared that it supports Moscow’s request for security guarantees to Washington.

All these developments reveal the deepening of alliance relations on the Russia-China line. At this point, it should be reminded that international relations are, in essence, power relations. Therefore, actors who perceive threats from powerful states turn to alliance relations in order to balance the perceived threat. This takes shape the formation of the so-called balance of power. However, emerging alliance relations and established power balances are not always shaped by rational choices. States can sometimes detract some countries away from themselves because of their wrong policies. Sometimes, countries may join undesirable alliances due to some pressures.

Generally, such uncontrolled and irrational polarizations result in disastrous wars. The alliance relations before the First and Second World Wars confirm this situation. Such polarizations have left damage to the world that took decades to repair. At this point, it is possible to read the USA-Europe and Russia-China polarization through this irrational alliance paradox.

As it is known, Russia lost its qualification as one of the two great powers of the international system after the Cold War and was considered as a medium-sized actor by many analysts. However, Moscow quickly overcame the trauma caused by the aforementioned situation and started to be described as a great power again When Putin took office.

The Kremlin administration has built its strategy of being a great power on the maintaining its hegemony in the post-Soviet space. This strategy, also known as the ” Near Abroad Doctrine”, brought along Russia’s political and military interventions in the face of Westernization tendencies in post-Soviet countries. Of course, this situation also started the discussions that Moscow did not respect the independence and sovereignty of the post-Soviet states.

Russia, which intervened in Georgia in 2008 and separated South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the authority of Tbilisi, annexed Crimea in 2014 in violation of international law and supported the separatist groups in Luhansk and Donetsk. In particular, the Ukraine Crisis in 2014 led to the isolation of Russia, which wanted to increase its influence in its near abroad, in the international arena in general and in the Western World in a specific sense. For this reason, the West has imposed various sanctions on Russia. However, the most significant barrier of international relations that prevents wars from breaking out in the globalizing world conjuncture is a dependency of states each other. Therefore, the West’s need for Russian natural gas and Moscow’s need for the European market enabled the continuation of Russia-Europe relations despite the crisis in 2014.

As can be expected, this sustainability situation has brought Moscow to take bolder steps in Eastern Europe and even in the Baltics. As of 2022, Moscow, which carries out the integration process with Belarus and tries to discredit European values through the migrant crisis on the Belarus-Poland border; On the other hand, it signals that you are preparing for an invasion by massing approximately 150,000 troops along Ukrainian border. Although Moscow makes these moves with the ease of the assumption that it will force Europe to remain silent by using its energy card, it is obvious that Russia’s actions have begun to threaten European security at this point.

Therefore, the Kremlin, which frequently expresses that it defends a multipolar world order, directs Europe, which is trying to position itself as a pole in the international system, to the USA with its practical practice. Because the idea that Russia will gradually take various actions in Ukraine, Trans-Dniester, Eastern Europe and the Baltics dominated Europe. In other words, Moscow’s efforts to control its inner circle have awakened Europe’s traditional perception of the other and led the actors discussing the strategic autonomy of the continent to increase their interest in the USA again.

It should be stated that the policies of the Washington administration are also effective in the formation of the said power balance. It is clear that the dominant force challenging the global hegemony of the USA is China, which has come to the forefront with the huge economic relations it has developed through the Belt-Road Project. For this reason, on the one hand, implementing a containment policy with alliances such as QUAD and AUKUS; On the other hand, the USA, which is waging trade wars with various sanctions, still thinks that China is the more dynamic side in this competition, and therefore Washington delays confronting and revenging with Beijing.

According to the American decision-makers, if USA will fight against China by focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, first of all, the support of Continental Europe should be provided, or in other words, its commitment to the USA should be confirmed. To this end, the Washington administration is making Russia, the traditional other of Europe, a target again. As a matter of fact, the act of placing missiles in Europe, which is reflected in Russia’s demands for security guarantees, is mainly carried out with the aim of making Europe perceive Russia as a threat. USA, similarly, by keeping the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the agenda and in this context, the membership of Ukraine and Georgia is open to discussion, forcing Europe to take a solid stance. Because the USA is the country that knows best what stance Moscow will take in case the post-Soviet countries turn to NATO. In other words, the Washington administration will otherize Russia in order to gain the support of Europe, thereby opening up space for Russian aggression that will threaten European security. In fact, recent statements from American decision-makers even created the impression that the US wanted Russia to intervene in Ukraine.

Of course, this situation stems from the expectation of strengthening Europe’s perception of the other. But there is something that the Washington administration did not take into account. It is that the policies it implemented increased the alliance of Russia-China. In other words, Washington is pushing Moscow to Beijing with its actions. At this stage, it will be useful to remember the Cold War experience. As it is known, the turning point of the struggle between the Warsaw Pact led by the Soviet Union and NATO, which was based on the USA-European alliance during the Cold War, was the process initiated by the American diplomat Henry Kissinger on the axis of “Pin-Pong Diplomacy”. One of the main factors in the defeat of the Soviet Union was the abandonment of Russia by China, which quickly became attached to global capitalism. Now, while the USA is preparing to fight against China; it is forcing Russia to confront Europe in order to take Europe with USA. However, the experience of the Cold War shows that the USA should take both Europe and Russia with it in the fight against China, which is more dynamic than itself.

As a result, as the US-China rivalry becomes more clear, the alliance relations in the global power struggle are also tried to be consolidated. In this environment, the Washington administration is trying to take Europe on its side in order to fight against China, and for this, it otherize Russia by using its traditional approach. Russia’s actions in the post-Soviet geography and its responses to American pressure strengthen the US-Europe alliance in line with the expectations of the White House. However, what Washington overlooked is that its policies also institutionalized the Russia-China alliance. In this sense, states find themselves in alliances that they do not intend to join. The current polarization reminds the irrational alliance processes before the world wars and this situation threatens the global peace environment.

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.