The Ukraine war and the return to Eurocentrism
GS Paper 2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Mains exam: Ukraine-Russia war and its effect on India’s interest
The political and military aftermath of the Ukraine-Russia conﬂict could set the stage for the return of a Eurocentric world order.
• For a long time Europe remained the centre of the world. Decolonisation, the emergence of the United States as the western world’s sole superpower, and the rise of the rest dramatically diminished the centuries old domination of the European states and their ability to shape the world in their own image.
• The contemporary international order is hardly Euro-centric: dominated by the US, and challenged by rising great powers or superpowers, it is moving toward a multipolar order wherein Europe’s system shaping capabilities have been rather limited. Or so it has been until now.
War and its possible effect on Europe
• The political and military aftermath of Russia’s war on Ukraine could potentially tilt the current global balance towards Euro-centric world order.
• The U.S. continues to dominate the transAtlantic security landscape and this is likely to remain so.
• In future Europeans are likely to take their own security far more seriously. In any case, there is little doubt that Europe, going forward, will emerge as a major locus of trans¬Atlantic security imagination.
• If wars have the potential to shape international orders, it is Europe’s turn to shape the world, once again.
• The United States, actions in Iraq and Afghan wars, does not appear to be keen on another round of wars and military engagements.
• Mood in Europe seems to be changing; there is a shift in narrative from pacifism to insecurity induced militarism.
• The Russian aggression against Ukraine has led to an unmissable feeling of insecurity in Europe, particularly in Germany.
• A pervasive sense of what some described as “existential insecurity” has brought about a renewed enthusiasm about the future of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
• The European Union (EU) Commission in Brussels has backed Kyiv’s bid for EU candidature, and the 30¬ state military alliance, NATO, has two more members in its fold (Finland and Sweden).
• This new military unity is not just words, but is backed with political commitment and financial resources from the world’s richest economies.
o Berlin, for instance, has decided to spend an additional €100 billion for defence over and above its €50 billion annual expenditure on defence.
o Changing Russia through trade is no longer popular amongst most German policy makers and thinkers.
o While there is a deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability in contemporary Europe, there is also the belief that NATO and the EU will see better days going forward. To that extent, many consider russia’s Ukraine war as a blessing in disguise.
Impact on European institutions
• Germany is leading the way of this new thinking in europe.
o A country that has for two decades spent no more than 1.3% on defence will now spend more than 2% to beef up its defence.
o Notably, there appears little faith in the United Nations or the UN Security Council anymore in Berlin, they have decided to put their faith in a revitalised EU and NATO.
• It is interesting to note how quickly Europe’s trust in democratic global institutions weakened in the face of a war that a non-EU/NATO member is ﬁghting in its neighbourhood.
• European states are deeply worried about globalisation induced vulnerability and this has set in a rethink about the inherent problems of indiscriminate globalisation. What this turn away from multilateralism in favour of ‘Europeanism’ will do is to further undercut global institutions.
• The combined eﬀect of European remilitarisation (however modest it may be for now), its loss of faith in multilateral institutions, and the increased salience of the EU and NATO will be the unchecked emergence of Europe as an even stronger regulatory, norm/standard setting superpower backed with military power.
Implications for the rest
• The recent statements emanating from Europe that ‘democracies’ should come together to defeat a nondemocratic aggressor is a taste of the things to come: a eurocentric worldview of ‘friends and enemies’ will deﬁne its engagement with the rest of the world.
• India is a friend, but its take on the Ukraine war is not friendly enough for Europe.
• Receding multilateralism and rising Eurocentrism would invariably mean that norm setting and system shaping discussions are likely to be conducted by Europeans, among Europeans, for Europeans and non Europeans, leading to fewer consultations and even lesser consensus with the rest of the international community.
• The EU will lead the way in setting standards for the rest of the world and others will have little option but to follow that.
• Europe will seek partners around the world: to create a Eurocentric world order, not a truly global world order.
The key message from the European narratives about the Ukraine war is that European states would want to see their wars and conflicts as threatening international stability and the ‘rules based’ global order.
Needless to mention that there is little recognition in the West today that the global non West’s political priorities are altogether different, from addressing abject poverty and underdevelopment to managing social cohesion and local conﬂicts.