A ‘desert storm’

David Narmania

Perhaps, before the celebration of the New Year did not cause such a feeling as this time. Even posts from those who like to sum up the results of the past twelve months in social networks – allowed and prohibited – were much less common than usual, and looked like some distant greetings against the background of news from the fronts, if not from pre-Covid, then at least from pre-February times.
Never before has December 32 followed the chiming clock with the same merciless and inevitable obviousness.
The ordeals that Russia and, each in its own way, all of us have faced, along the way have brought a somewhat altered sense of time. Years are now difficult to measure, decades are somehow more convenient. And now, apparently, we are waiting for a decade of turbulence.
All this will be retribution for the mistakes of the past and the lessons of history, which the “civilized world” chose to ignore.
In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, many in both the West and Russia believed that the world had a unique chance. After the end of the Cold War, the United States and its allies could single-handedly shape a new world order that would ensure the gradual triumph of democracy, capitalism, and “a land flowing with milk and honey” on a planetary scale. This arrangement suited almost all the players – both those who remained at the table and those who sat in the vacant seat of the USSR : through the mouth of Andrei Kozyrev, Yeltsin’s Russia abandoned its national interests, declaring that now it wants to pay attention first of all to the interests of all mankind. China at that time was less verbose and more cautious than it is now, Indiahas not yet gained its current power, and with the general consent (sometimes tacit) America received carte blanche to build the world in its own image and likeness.
However, as it turned out, no export of democracy is planned. Or rather, it was, of course, declared, but in fact there was no talk of any democratization and the building of a single world community. The West behaved not like an architect of the future, although it had every opportunity to create an idea, a common vision that could unite humanity, but like a crusader who received three days to sack the city after a long siege. This city was the whole world, and three days turned into three decades.
Intoxicated with victory in the Cold War, the hegemon began to do his hegemonic deeds. First, he invaded Iraq, setting up a “Desert Storm” there – and against the backdrop of Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, this seemed, if not necessary, then at least did not look criminal. But gradually, due to the lack of competitors, the United States ceased to measure their strength. First, Yugoslavia – here NATO ‘s criminal intervention in the conflict at least ended in success for the West. However, further steps finally convinced the world: the sole rule of Washington not only does not bring global justice, but is also problematic even for the United States itself – and, as a result, for other countries.
First, the invasion of Afghanistan, which turned into a shameful flight 20 years later, and then a new operation in Iraq, which laid a wonderful foundation for the emergence of the ” Islamic State “, demonstrated extremely convincingly that the United States could not cope.
At the same time, under the guise of democratization and with the support of the White House, people who were very far from the values of freedom, equality and fraternity came to power – for example, Saakashvili, who unleashed a war in South Ossetia and accelerated the final split of Ukraine, Yushchenko. Similar events were observed in the Middle East – not a single state began to live better after the “Arab Spring”, and some even ceased to exist.
All these events forced us to return from fantasies about a single humanity to the harsh realities of an imperfect world order, which, by the way, continued to operate here according to the old laws – at least in terms of international relations.
And these laws are as follows: over time, the systems of international relations replace each other, ensuring for some time a relatively stable existence for the participating countries. This is done through the rules of the game formulated in international agreements and institutions that ensure their observance. As these institutions weaken and the balance of power shifts, one system is replaced by another. On paper, everything looks smooth, but there is one thing: since 1648, when the first – Westphalian – system of international relations was formed, the transition from one SMO to another has never been peaceful. It was always preceded by major conflicts: the Vienna system marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Versailles system marked the end of World War I, and the Yalta-Potsdam system marked the end of World War II.
The guarantors of the latter system were the USA and the USSR, which headed the capitalist and socialist blocs, which were generally equal in strength. But after the voluntary renunciation of its role by the Soviet Union, it actually ceased to exist.
And now we can sum up the intermediate results: the West could not offer the world a universal new model of the device, and sole control turned out to be beyond its power. And here we come to a disappointing conclusion: we are in for a long period of formation of the new system.
And as the last four centuries of world history show, each subsequent war, in which the world order is born, is bloodier than the previous one.
Does this mean that we are waiting for the third world? Well, at least what is happening now gives hope that the leaders of the leading powers understand the danger of a nuclear conflict and are trying to avoid it. Perhaps the world will face a series of regional confrontations that will witness the weakening of yesterday’s leaders and the strengthening of ambitious challengers.
Probably, the special operation of Russian troops in Ukraine is the first conflict of its kind. Russia turned out to be the main loser in the Cold War, and therefore (unlike, for example, China) could not afford a calm progressive development, since it faced the threat of further collapse due to the expansion of NATO to the east.
The fact is that, having lost military bases in Crimea in 2014, Russia could not have carried out a military operation in Syria : Novorossiysk would not have coped with providing troops in the Middle East the way Sevastopol could do. And without the participation of the Kremlin, the Assad regime would not have survived in the confrontation with the IS and the opposition. This would turn the region into a hotbed of instability – then the export of radical Islamism to the Caucasus and other Muslim regions of Russia would begin. And there, the terrorist attacks in Moscow are within easy reach. Does anyone doubt that extremists and separatists would receive support from the “civilized world”? Well, history shows that ideological contradictions did not prevent the West from actively sponsoring Russia’s enemies.
All of the above makes Russia the main interest in the formation of a new world order that would ensure its security. The main one, but not the only one. China, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and many other countries have gained strength over three decades and are ready to defend their interests. In some cases, in confrontation not only with the West, but also with each other. But while they have so far been able to negotiate among themselves, the struggle between the “revisionists” and the “guardians” of the outgoing system of international relations is becoming more and more acute, not only on the Ukrainian front.
And such problems are not solved in a hurry.