By Aditya Ramachandran
A recurring theme of this column is the new, multi-polar world that all of us, as a global civilization, are indubitably heading towards. However, even throughout the numerous articles that have been penned hitherto, it has to be said that the notion of waning American hegemony around the world was foreshadowing; something that we would have had to expect in decades. Up until this point, it was admittedly my firm conviction that what is still, arguably, the world’s liberal empire still had an iron grip on the international community. How wrong I was!
The situation in Ukraine details just how much the world is no longer paying attention to the “red lines” and the vague threats of “consequences” put forth by President Barack Obama regarding the turmoil in that state that has unfolded in recent weeks. The geopolitical irrelevance of the United States in this Eastern European debacle was demonstrated when the Pentagon admitted the Ukrainian military had refused to take its calls for over a week. It is crucial to bear in mind that this is an institution that only a decade ago succumbed without question to Washington’s requests to serve alongside the American military in Iraq.
When confronted with the real human tragedy of the Ukrainian people, who are being picked off by masked snipers as they rise up to protest against a corrupt and inept regime, Obama threatened “consequences” if “lines are crossed.” However, without a powerful American presence to rally its European allies, the Ukrainian struggle is clearly in favor of Russia, which remains to this day, the pre-eminent regional power. The turmoil in Ukraine is more complex than some simple power struggle between Western democratic structures and authoritarianism or between the European Union and Moscow. Furthermore and, arguably, more significantly, a new line of demarcation has been drawn — with NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other. Quite simply, no amount of diplomatic speak from the President of the United States can sort out this mess in a simple and brief manner.
The Russians’ position is both coherent and backed by clout. Moscow’s understanding of all that has unfolded is centered on the notion that Ukraine is not an independent nation, but a province of their continental nation. In the words of Vladimir Putin to former President Bush, it is “not even a state.” To curry influence with the flailing country, Russia has so far offered it $15 billion in subsidies and bought another $2 billion in bond value.
This offer is significant because Western persuasion has been softer and less effective. The trade and cooperation agreement Europe had offered, and which the Ukrainian president shot down, is undoubtedly important but very incomplete. The agreement is hardly a definitive path to Ukraine becoming a full member of the European Union — something desired by many citizens of the nation who seek to get their nation away from the tentacles of Russian hegemony.
It is highly unlikely that the Russian government and territories in Ukraine will accept Washington’s plan for Ukraine. Whatever the intention, the deeply provocative statements of the American leadership are raising tensions and fomenting war in what is already a troubled region of the planet. This is a huge disappointment for those in the world who understand the stakes for global stability that accompany the decline of American hegemony. For what it’s worth, when the U.S. finally withdraws from the mantle of global hegemony, as we are shown every day, the world will only see more — not less — violence.
Aditya Ramachandran is a first-year columnist for The College Reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.