Are we in danger of losing control of geopolitical developments?

 21. 03. 2024      Category: Defense & Security

The outlines of a possible scenario that should not be underestimated are becoming increasingly clear. It is difficult to say whether the current developments not only in Ukraine have been considered by the main players on the geopolitical chessboard as one of the possible variants of future developments. The main protagonists of the geopolitical struggle have their own goals and interests, which they are not always willing to admit publicly.

Picture: Are we in danger of losing control of geopolitical developments? | Shutterstock
Picture: Are we in danger of losing control of geopolitical developments? | Shutterstock

At the moment, it appears that, apart from Ukraine, Europe in particular is suffering economically. In the case of Europe, the effects of this war are clearly visible, for example, in Germany, which has so far been considered the economic engine of Europe. Following the loss of imports of cheap raw materials from Russia, particularly gas and oil, Germany is entering economic stagnation and its prospects are not very favourable.

The rise of players from Asia and beyond

If we consider that, on the other hand, countries such as China and India are now not only getting cheaper gas and oil from Russia, which is gradually moving towards closer cooperation with these countries, we can also assume that Europe is losing competitiveness in most of its economic output. In contrast to the growing economic, but also political and power importance of China and India in particular, Europe's importance will decline. And we must not forget other countries in Asia, but also some countries in Africa and Latin America. 

The question is how realistic will that variant of the future development of the 'chess game' in which Russia 
and China will try to weaken the West to such an extent that no one will significantly interfere with the pursuit of their economic and power interests. It can also be assumed that the US, irrespective of the internal political struggle, will have to focus more intensively on the threat of a clash with China and will completely 'cede' the conflict in Ukraine to Europe. What consequences could this have for Europe?

It cannot be ignored that European states will also continue to face other difficulties. These include, for example, the consequences of migration, which may become even more widespread. In addition to migrants, particularly from Africa and the Middle East, we can expect a surge in new migrants in the context of the unfavourable developments in Ukraine, including the possible collapse of the state.

There is also a tendency for a change in the attitudes of some hitherto pro-Western (especially US) states, such as Turkey and other Muslim countries, whose thinking is also influenced by events in Gaza and the overall situation in the Middle East. 

It is also questionable whether states such as Iran or North Korea will take advantage of the potential weakening of the West, which is also increasingly preoccupied with internal problems. It can be assumed that Russia not only pays for the supply of military material from these countries in cash or gold, but also provides them with the required technology, experience in conflict management or captured weapons of Western origin, which they can use for their own production. 

The conflict in Ukraine is also being monitored by other states and they will certainly take the new knowledge into account in the further development of their armed forces. However, there is also a political dimension, for example, in the way in which individual states are approaching the conflict or the end of it. It is a fact, for example, that Russia has not been left alone, and many states have not been deterred from cooperating with Russia even by the threat of sanctions. 

And we must not forget China, which has a specific position in relation to Russia and the volume of mutual cooperation will be considerable. There can be no doubt that China is closely monitoring not only the military aspects of the conflict in Ukraine, but also the reactions and capabilities of the West, which is supporting Ukraine. This knowledge is then likely to influence China's subsequent actions, including in its efforts to occupy Taiwan.

In the context of the changing distribution of economic importance and power in the world, it is thus clear that many states are looking for the most advantageous perspective and suitable allies. The dynamism of these changes is illustrated by the expansion of the BRICS economic grouping, which is expected to include countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates from this year onwards, and Turkey, among others, has expressed interest in joining. These changes can be seen in the context of current developments in Africa, where China and Russia in particular are strengthening their influence. One of the losers on this continent is clearly France, which has failed to maintain its influence in most of its former colonies.

Further signs of a shift of influence in favour of China

China's systematic building of the modern Silk Road, known as the One Belt, One Road, can be classified as a truly strategic project that cannot be ignored. Due to its scale and importance, this project will play an increasingly important role, both in the global economy and in increasing Chinese influence.

China's important achievements also include the negotiation of a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with Iran (27 March 2021) and the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia (March 2023). These events represent a success for China not only in the pursuit of its economic interests, but 
political influence throughout the Middle East. 

The impact of the events

In addition to the conflicts of war, we have been experiencing a migration crisis for many years, but also the effects of climate change. Nor can we underestimate the danger posed by the followers of radical Islamism, who are probably just waiting for the right opportunity. Even in the context of these threats, which have an impact, above all, on the economic and security situation in many countries, not only in Europe, we can see the causes of radicalisation, even though these are mostly democratic societies.

The pace of major events is constantly accelerating and there is often a lack of time and resources to deal with serious problems. Moreover, in many cases there will be no opportunity to correct wrong decisions.

The question is therefore whether we are already at a turning point or how much time we have before the wheel of history turns. However, it would be a tragic mistake to approach these changes without considering the danger of global warfare.

Other possible developments in the Ukrainian conflict

In the context of the US elections, Russia has at least until the end of the year to exert its military power to expand the occupied territory of Ukraine. Indeed, it can be assumed that any agreement on ending the war in Ukraine will respect the last achieved situation on the front. 

If the US agrees with Russia on a final solution, even Europe is unlikely to do anything about it. Nor can it be ruled out that the end of the conflict in Ukraine will be part of a wider agreement involving China. In addition to ending this conflict, the result could then be the creation of a new global security architecture.

Another option could be a move towards confrontation between the US and China and thus a US interest in ending the war in Ukraine. In this case, it can be expected that the US will demand that Europe end or significantly reduce its economic cooperation with China, which would mean a further significant deterioration in the economic situation for Europe and the prospect of considerable risks and uncertainties for the future.

A situation in which Russia is not interested in concluding a peace agreement cannot be ruled out either, if its leaders believe that a renewed conflict could arise later, for example after Ukraine joins NATO. In this case, Russia could then see the prolongation of the protracted conflict as preventing Ukraine from joining NATO.

Unintended consequences for Europe

For the time being, the full impact of the conflict in Ukraine is difficult to assess. Security ones may include, for example, the smuggling of weapons, including technology, especially after the conflict has ended. In addition, we must also take into account the number of people who have been through the war and intend to continue to do so. This will increase the supply of contractors and, given current developments, it can be assumed that demand will also increase. In terms of the 'potential' consequences mentioned, it may not be 'just' an increase in crime, but also other threats such as terrorism or organised crime. The question then is to what extent we can prepare for these risks and threats. 

The fact is that Europe may not fare well even after the end of the conflict in Ukraine. In an environment of continued economic sanctions and Russia's increasing orientation towards Asia, but also towards other countries (e.g. within BRICS), Europe will use more expensive raw materials and energy than most of its competitors. The relocation of production capacity outside Europe due to expensive energy inputs is one of the first signs of Europe's weakening economic position. 

In addition to the economic consequences, there will also be intransigence and even hatred between the opposing sides, including those involved on one side or the other, for many years to come.