Putin had what he wanted: he defied the United States and the Atlantic alliance, invaded Ukraine to impose by force what he believed to be in Russia’s interest. But the war showed not Putin’s strength, but his flaws: a modest Russian military might from a relic of World War II. And had it not been for Russia’s nuclear weapons, the West would have confronted Putin militarily and pushed him and his army to the vicinity of Moscow.
However, the military is not Russia’s only weak point, but rather everything related to Russia’s state, its economy, and its lacking scientific capabilities.
At the time of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had the second largest economy in the world after the United States, and it manufactured aircraft, cars, and household equipment.
Today, the Russian economy ranks twelfth in the world, before the start of the war in Ukraine, and before the West imposed its harsh sanctions on Moscow. Today, there is no Russian-made computer, telephone, television, or even radio on the world market.
Russia is not a world power, as Putin has sought to portray it since he came to power in 2000. Russia is a fading power that still does some military industries, but other than that, it is the world’s gas station with nuclear missiles.
Strange that Putin did not understand the lesson. For years, he seemed intelligent and seasoned, but it is likely that the curse of staying in power for decades befell him, so he became surrounded by flatterers, losing his contact with reality and his ability to understand and diagnose it.
All of Putin’s projects to create an alternative world order to the one led by the United States have failed.
He tried to establish a bank for the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and to issue an international currency to become an alternative to the US dollar, the world’s currency. Putin failed, the bank failed, and the attempt to establish a common monetary system failed.
Putin tried to establish an economic alliance close to integration with China to stand up to the United States. But China did not even vote alongside Putin at the United Nations against the resolution condemning his invasion of Ukraine. Rather, it abstained from the vote, at a time when Beijing is preparing to abide by international sanctions against Russia, contrary to what Putin’s supporters and the opposition coalition (Iran and its satellites) had hoped.
As for the reason for China’s failure to save Russia financially, it is clear.
The size of China’s economy is 15% of the size of the global economy, but this hugeness is not based on self-sufficiency, but rather on China’s exports to the giant American and European markets. In other words, in order for China to maintain the size of its economy, it must maintain its trade with the Group of Seven, which includes America, the European Union, Britain, Canada and Japan.
The size of the G7 economy is two-thirds of the global economy, with almost self-sufficiency, which makes it capable of imposing sanctions on others and at the same time impervious to the sanctions of others.
These economic realities put China in front of two options: either it saves Russia and ally with it and loses the markets of the seven countries, or it abandons Russia to maintain its trade relations with half of the planet. China knows that if it chooses Russia, its economy will shrink dramatically, meaning that instead of Beijing saving Moscow, it will sink with it.
In the coming cold war, as in the past, China will not stand in the eastern camp, although it resembles it. Rather, it will maintain its relations with the West, and it will strive hard in its attempt to stop the economic decline it suffers from, a problem known in economics as the “middle income trap.” That is, China benefited in its early stages of economic growth due to the low price of labor, but it failed to turn into a developed economy and got stuck between two worlds. Its growth cannot rely on the elements that pushed it to growth in its early years and at the same time it does not have the ability to grow like advanced economies.
In the coming Cold War, there are two camps: a Western led by the United States, the only pole in the world in light of Russia’s military failure and China’s economic slowdown, and another led by Russia with the participation of Syria and Belarus.
China will remain neutral, as will Iran, which rejoices at Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and curses America and the West, but is desperate to conclude an agreement with America that will lead to the lifting of sanctions against the Tehran regime.
This Iran is much weaker than Russia and China. Rather, it is seeking help from them and begging for them, such as the quarter-century economic agreement it signed with China, or in its quest to acquire Russian military technologies that the world knows today is a failure.
The Ukraine war taught us some lessons, the first of which is that the Western model in governance and economy is still the best in the world, not perfect, but it is the best without controversy, and that the alternatives are all disasters, whether in the capitalist-oriented economy of China, or in the Iranian Islamic government, which has a heroic imagination, or In Russia, which pretended to be a global power, it became clear that even its civil aircraft fleet, Aeroflot, is a European manufacture and flies with American programs, and that without the West and its technologies, which Russia buys and consumes, Russia would have been in a worse situation than the Soviet Union was in its worst days.
In the world of the Arabs, there are no lessons, nor do they grieve, only a recapture of the same outdated conspiracy theories on the model that the West feared Putin’s power and lured him into a predicament, or that China will confront the West, or that Iran is a global power to be reckoned with, and other myths passed on by generations It perishes, but its legends are immortal.
The world after Ukraine will return to the Cold War because it is the only way to confront a nuclear power that has run out of control. In the next war, America and its allies will lead the world, Russia will live in isolation until it repents, and China will live on neutrality.
As for Iran and its cronies, they will remain mired in the same misery, before and after the Ukraine war.
Read the Arabic original here.