The West is gone AWOL
The West is currently suffering from a collective geopolitical hyperfocus. He became unable to focus on more than one problem at a time. This international malaise threatens the established world order, preventing the West from acting as a frontline defender of liberal values, national self-determination and the rule of law.
Just look at several notable and recent examples of the West’s failure to deliver in Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Caucasus and Bolivia.
Perhaps most striking of all is the ongoing political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which has so far resulted in the resignation and flight of the Prime Minister, the killing of protesters and the declaration of national lockdown by President.
This crisis is a textbook case where the political West could have intervened to prevent the tragedy and instead chose to turn a blind eye – with headlines about the crisis not reaching beyond the regional pages of online media.
The financial crisis that sparked the unrest was the result of China’s unfavorable lending and imbalanced investment – a situation often used as a case study to warn against China’s colonial ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
China had offered a loan to help pay for infrastructure projects such as the international port of Hambantota. When Sri Lanka struggled to repay the loans, China and Chinese banks in the market rushed to offer other structured loans to help with repayment, taking several key infrastructure projects, including the port, as collateral. . It was 2017 – and yet the West seemed uninterested in offering a financial lifeline to end addiction.
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The most recent inflation crisis in Sri Lanka in recent weeks has put the country in an even more precarious position. As Sri Lanka fails to repay its external debts – 10% of which are owed to China – islanders now find themselves faced with rising food and fuel prices.
The human tragedy of what is happening on the island is generating a political crisis in a country whose civil war ended just over a decade ago. Already the Prime Minister has been forced to resign and take refuge in a naval base, while the President remains entrenched in his palace.
Why did the West not intervene at any time? Especially given the strategic importance of Sri Lanka for maritime trade. Wasn’t any Western power looking for how it could have offered a lifeline to the embattled government? At no time was it considered that an international loan might be better for the people of Sri Lanka? The only possible winner in the event of political unrest in the region is China.
Sri Lanka is far from an isolated incident. Russian economic interference in Moldova and the Western Balkans has caused just as much damage. This has created a false sense that it is a partner country that can get things done, while the EU and other Western actors are bound by undesirable conditionalities and red tape.
A similar question could be asked about the position of the West as a diplomatic actor. In 2020, a full-scale war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over disputed borders drawn in the 1990s. The conflict lasted a month and resulted in a mediated peace – but rather than the US or a European actor intervene as a guarantor, Turkey and Russia have each chosen to impose peace on both sides. Hardly a headline has been written about the whole affair – and yet it marked a turning point in which it demonstrated that the West is AWOL.
Similarly, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the old peace agreements brokered by the West in the 1990s – the Dayton Accords – risk being undone by Russian and Serbian interference in the political processes of the ethnically Serb Republic of Srpska. Many in the region fear that this year’s elections could destabilize the country, and perhaps the wider region. Little has been done about this by the West.
At The Defense of Europe conference organized by Reaction in London last week, Professor Niall Ferguson warned that the world had entered a second cold war. A major arena of this new conflict is the economic sphere. Just like in the first Cold War, East and West compete for investment. It already seems that the West is far behind.
While the West has done little to reform the way it conducts economic development around the world – opting for archaic models of delivering money to governments, on projects that do not fit into any broader strategy – the China has made sure to build things that send a message. Major road and rail networks, government buildings and civil society projects are all funded by the Chinese communist state.
At the heart of Professor Ferguson’s argument was the absence of the national foundations of the West, necessary to maintain cohesion and win a cold war. In other words, national societies are too divided and distracted to play their role on the international stage.
This distraction is not only dangerous for world events that the West misses, but also for those in which it is currently involved. In August 2021, the world saw the US-led mission in Afghanistan crumble – undoing two decades of women’s rights dating back to the Dark Ages.
The failed intervention in Libya is another example – once Gaddafi was ousted from power, the coalition of France, Italy and the UK simply walked away without a thought. coming. Little discussion seemed to exist about how the West would rebuild the nation shattered by war.
Some concentration is required to go through with it. This includes Ukraine, where serious thought must be given to the type of nation that will exist once the war with Russia is won. Too much is at stake for the forces of liberal democracy to drop the ball and walk away, giving in to the impulses of their blind geopolitical visions.
Robert Tyler is senior policy adviser at New Direction, a Brussels-based think tank.