The Ukraine war and the return to Euro-centrism

Source: This post is based on the article “The Ukraine war and the return to Euro-centrism” published in The Hindu on 16th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: The Russia-Ukraine conflict and its consequences

Context: The political and military aftermath of the Ukraine conflict could set the stage for the return of a Euro-centric world order.

Is the current world order Euro-centric?

No.

a) Decolonisation, b) the emergence of the United States as the western world’s sole superpower, and c) the rise of the rest. These factors have dramatically diminished the centuries old domination of the European states.

The contemporary international order is hardly Euro-centric, is dominated by the U.S., 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.

War and insecurity in Europe

Going forward, Europe will emerge as a major locus of trans-Atlantic security imagination. The process has clearly begun.

The political and military aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine could potentially tilt the current global balance towards a new Euro-centric world order, albeit far less powerful and dominating than its earlier forms.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has led to an unmissable feeling of insecurity in Europe, particularly in Germany.

Berlin, has decided to spend an additional €100 billion for defence over and above its €50 billion annual expenditure on defence. It is set to announce a new national security strategy early next year.

Currently, the U.S. continues to dominate the trans-Atlantic security landscape and this is likely to remain so. The new security consciousness in Europe will reduce Washington’s ability to continue as the fulcrum of the trans-Atlantic strategic imagination.

  • The United States, fatigued from the Iraq and Afghan wars, does not appear to be keen on another round of wars and military engagements.

– If Donald Trump returns to the White House in 2024, the Europeans are likely to take their own security far more seriously.

Impact of Russia-Ukraine war

On multilateral institutions

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.

European states are deeply worried about globalisation-induced vulnerability and this has set in a rethink about the inherent problems of indiscriminate globalisation. This turn away from multilateralism in favour of ‘Europeanism’ will further undercut global institutions.

Implications of the new Euro-centric world order

It can lead to an even stronger regulatory, norm/standard-setting superpower of the Europe, backed with military power.

The EU already has a worryingly disproportionate ability to set standards for the rest of the world. Instruments such as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Assets Act or its human rights standards will be unilaterally adopted, and will be unavoidable by other parts of the world.

A euro-centric 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!

Norm setting and system-shaping discussions are likely to be conducted by Europeans, among Europeans, for Europeans and non-Europeans. This will lead to fewer consultations and even lesser consensus with the rest of the international community. This will not be a truly global world order.

Way forward

European states want to see their wars and conflicts as threatening international stability and the ‘rules-based’ global order.

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.

The genuine surprise in western capitals at the lack of interest in other parts of the world about the Russian aggression in Europe, is indicative of the inherent Euro-centric view of the European nations about the world.

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