November 10, 2023
The world split is quickly evolving into something less like a split – if by ‘split’ one means a more or less evenly balanced division between two parts – and more like the isolation of one smaller part of the international community from a larger, significant or supermajority.
Moreover, this isolation resembles self-solation, and the self-isolated party is the West.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Even before the NATO-Russia Ukrainian War, Washington and Brussels were touting success in isolating first Russia and then China from ‘community of democracies’ (even as Washington was itself abandoning what should properly be called not democratic government but republican government). Instead, the reverse is occurring. By means of arrogance and obstinance, the West, led by Washington, is finding itself increasingly isolated. The West’s isolation is largely an accidental self-isolation brought about by a series of radical policy choices and a disturbing inability, even unwillingness to make compromises not just with foes but increasingly with friends.
At the same time, the West’s failed attempt to isolate Moscow and Beijing has prompted them to work very closely together to isolate the West further and further and draw to their side the Rest, parts of which were once firmly allied or at least had very good relations with the West. Russia’s alienation from the West is not an isolated incident. India, Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even NATO members Turkey, Hungary, and Slovakia have soured on the West and are joining the Sino-Russian alternative.
How did this happen?
First, against Russia’s clearly stated and firm wishes and the West’s own promises not to expand NATO beyond reunified Germany came NATO expansion, then more NATO expansion, then attempted NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, bordering Russia in strategically crucial regions. ‘Democracy promotion’, including the nurturing, financing and fomenting of ‘democracy movements’, resulted in colour revolutions – rose (Georgia), orange and Maidan (Ukraine), white ribbon (Russia), etc. – and EU expansion cleared the path for NATO to make its approach. At its 2007 summit, NATO declared both Georgia and Ukraine would some day join NATO despite repeated Russian presidential objections, most recently at the 2007 Munich Security Conference by Vladimir Putin.
Georgia began to integrate with NATO programs and structures and then attacked its Russia-allied breakaway republic of South Ossetiya, killing hundreds of civilians and 19 Russian peacekeeping troops. Georgia was defeated in the August 2008 Five-Day Georgian-Ossetiyan-Russian War, and NATO executed an operational retreat.
Then came the US-backed Arab ‘Spring’, which brought the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to power briefly, led to civil war and the destruction of Moammar Qaddafi and his regime, and seeded the Syrian civil war. The last enabled the expansion of jihadism in the Middle East through Iraq and eastern Syria. Jihadism in the form of Al Qaida and ISIS was born in ‘blowback’ from the involvement in Afghanistan against the Soviets and cut its teeth in the Middle East as a result of the US invasion of Iraq after 9/11. The destabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of America’s post-9/11 invasions of those two countries and bizarre efforts at nation-building’ and democracy-promotion in those two ancient cultures provided jihadi movements with havens, which bled into eastern Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere across the Muslim world.
The mainstream Islamic world, which became the main victim of jihadism’s rise, could not help but see US and NATO political and military interventionism in their regions to be a catalyst of jihadism’s expansion into their countries.
Ukraine’s Maidan revolt – perhaps the US’s final colour revolution – repeated the Georgian experience, which included among other key events: a US-backed seizure of power ultimately executed by nationalistic anti-Russian elements, military attack by the new pro-Western regime against a pro-Russian region (Donbass replaces South Ossetiya), threats against another pro-Russian region (Crimea replaces Abkhaziya), and deep NATO involvement in the armed forces, and a Russian invasion.
It should have been no surprise that the repeat of the Georgian scenario in Ukraine continued all the way through to a Russian military invasion, particularly as the West rejected virtually in whole Russia’s attempt to obviate the need for an invasion by way of its December 2021 proposals for creating a new security architecture in Europe and an end to the unilateral expansion of NATO.
The NATO-Russia Ukraine war has forced the world to take sides, and only US allies have supported Ukraine: NATO, EU, and Five Eyes members plus Japan. The last is the only non-Western country to follow NATO’s lead in Ukraine.
Even NATO member Turkey has played both sides of the fence or at least taken a somewhat neutral stance, despite providing Ukraine with drones. More importantly, the war has deepened the Sino-Russian near-alliance and both eased and accelerated Moscow’s and Beijing’s efforts to create an alternative world order upon the pillars of BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and the Chinese-led ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative (OBORI).
BRICS has become BRICS+, bringing in six new countries, including former US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Russia has announced it will integrate the EEU into OBORI. BRICS has begun building an alternative financial and monetary order for abandoning the IMF, World Bank, and US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
The US economic buildup of China, fueling her rise, was perhaps an even greater geostrategic failure than driving Moscow into Beijing’s arms by expanding NATO to Russia’s borders. Together, these two miscalculations represent perhaps the greatest foreign policy cluster blunder in all modern history, out-failing Hitler’s ‘excellent’ two-front war and Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign to expand the community of ‘liberte, fraternite, egalite.’
Then came the HAMAS terrorist attack on Israel and Israel’s recklessly disproportionate response in the Gaza Strip. The US has unambiguously supported Israel’s overwrought response and still unexecuted decision to wage a full-scale invasion of Gaza, providing military assistance to boot.
However, Israel has sufficient means to seriously cripple HAMAS without slaughtering civilians and if it feels the sadly all too human need, to exact revenge, then it has already exacted more than enough. The US should be declaring that enough is enough. Israel has sufficiently damaged HAMAS through crude military means, and therefore Washington should be insisting that its ally engage a ceasefire immediately.
While quietly looking the other way for a brief period at more surgical Israeli responses (special forces operations, assassinations) to finish weakening Hamas, Washington should join Turkey, Russia, and the new global player on the block, China, in a peace conference to achieve a two-state solution perhaps in stages: statehood, then sharing Jerusalem.
Rather than taking such a global leadership position — one now being adopted by China and Russia — the US is consolidating the West’s self-isolation by siding with Israel and assisting its military operations against Hamas and Gaza civilians alike.
More than Israel and Gaza are at stake now. America and the world are at stake, as the conflict is set to escalate to a region-wide, even world war. The Muslim world witnesses daily Israeli mass bombings of Gaza, the torn bodies of infants and children and so, logically, mass rage and protests.
Even US supporters among Muslim states like Jordan have condemned Israel’s disproportionate response. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have adopted analogous positions, with Jordan’s King Hussein Abdullah II and other Arab states refusing to meet with the US president as scheduled after his unprecedented show of unequivocal support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach during his visit to Israel.
The Sunni-Shiite rift is being overcome as a consequence of Israel’s overreaction and Western backing for it. The Saudis and Iranian officials met two weeks ago to confer on the Gaza War. On the ground, this was reflected in the visit of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) representatives to Lebanon last week to meet with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
Beyond Islamic countries, the global South is almost unanimously siding with the Gaza and the Palestinians against Israel. Even the usually pro-American ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian States) issued a harsh condemnation of Israel’s policies and war in Gaza.
Indeed, the pattern is a global one. Thus, in a recent UN Security Council vote on a Brazilian resolution calling for a ceasefire and talks to move towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the United States was fully isolated. It alone voted against the resolution, with 2 abstaining (including Russia, which has its own similar resolution) and 12 voting in favour.
So, Moscow, Beijing, and a large swathe of states from all five continents are basically on the same page regarding both Ukraine and Gaza. The Shiites and Sunnis of the Muslim world are united on Gaza, with even NATO member Turkey supporting Gaza and condemning Israel. Through BRICS+6, OBORI, and even SCO, Moscow and Beijing are uniting the global South with Eurasia. In sum, the world is becoming less split than it was several years ago. The US Biden administration truly is uniting the world. The caveat is that the West is left out of the new unity; the world’s Rest is distancing itself from and beginning to turn against the West.
About the author
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.