Sometimes important news is overlooked. I read in Bloomberg on Tuesday that China and Saudi Arabia are negotiating oil sales in the Chinese yuan, rather than in dollars. Part of what is really at stake in the crisis in Ukraine is hidden in this news. Its outcome will determine what the world will be like in the next 40-50 years.
The conflict we see every day on our screens concerns Russia and the West – that is the United States and Europe. If you look at it from a distance, however, it concerns whether and how the era of American hegemony will end.
Western leaders believe that Ukraine will determine the first phase of this new worldwide cold war.
Will the dollar remain the global reference currency and SWIFT the key method of processing international payments? Will a new Iron Curtain descend between those countries that use Western technology and those that prefer the alternative that is being created? Will China and Russia be allies in a new geopolitical bloc that will practically and intensely question the omnipotence of the West? What will important countries such as Israel, India, or Turkey do when they are asked to choose who to side with and who to leave behind? Will Europe remain fully united with the US, as was the case after the shock of the Russian invasion? Will the production system that was consolidated with globalization be dismantled and completely reversed?
Russia is actively questioning the right of the West to impose its own terms and trying to win back the sphere of influence it controlled during the Cold War. China, too, is challenging the hegemony of the West. It seems that the two superpowers will be forging an alliance, with Moscow slipping into the role of the junior partner. A Western nightmare appears to be turning into reality.
The new cold war will be very tough and relentless. Smaller countries will have very little room for manoeuver. It will be a return to a world of black and white.
It is very hard to predict who will prevail. The champions of the West deem that democracy and capitalism provide a vital advantage and vigor that must not be underestimated. Skeptics say that the decline of Western power is inevitable. No matter how one chooses to view it, it will be a tough showdown between liberal democracy and authoritarian regimes, between the West and East.
Western leaders believe that Ukraine will determine the first phase of this new worldwide cold war. And, as has always been the case throughout history, it will have neither the time nor willingness to think about how we reached the point we stand at today.