Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


The war in Ukraine is far from over. It seems likely to go on for weeks or months or even years, whether as a grinding back-and-forth conflict, an insurgency fighting to overturn an occupation, or a global cataclysm. Meanwhile Western countries demand Russia follows international law: so why don’t they?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has brought war to Europe, driven millions of refugees across borders, and increased the risk of a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. The world has entered a perilous era, rife with uncertainties.

The EU has now agreed on a light version of oil embargo against Russia. It's a step after weeks of dispute that have shown cracks in European unity.

A “light oil embargo” but how about gas?

The Europeans argued about an oil embargo against Russia for weeks. The unity the bloc had demonstrated in the first weeks of the war seemed to be over. Instead, Europe was caught up in an embarrassing, never ending story.

Despite the agreement, European unity is starting to show cracks. At the moment, it seems utterly unlikely that the member states might take aim at Russian gas supplies any time soon.

Russia could play the Europeans off against each other. Gas supplies to the Netherlands have been cut off, and Denmark is apparently next. Bulgaria, Poland and Finland, too, no longer receive gas from Russia. Will our societies balk if prices continue to rise and inflation eats up our savings?

Former Soviets regimes' situation

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan neither supported the war nor condemned Putin. Like much of the non-western world, they abstained or did not vote on the UN votes condemning Russia.

They are sometimes weary of NATO’s military role in eastern Europe and the longer the war goes on, the more pressure some will face to take sides.

They are becoming poorer. Destroyed agricultural production has regional and global implications due to dependence on Ukrainian grains and sunflower oil.

Those most dependent upon Russia, such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, may suffer dramatically from decreasing remittances (money sent back home from those who work in Russia).

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) regional infrastructure projects, such as railway lines, are on hold. A negative impact on trade, tourism and investment is anticipated.

How about Russia?

Russia will look further east, to China and India, for trade partners and markets for its energy resources. In the long-term Russia, detached from the West, will likely be more dependent upon China.

Russia will also turn to non-western political regional alignments. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) includes Russia, four central Asian states, China, India and Pakistan. Iran is also seeking membership. These countries are reluctant to condemn Putin. They support multipolarity (a geopolitical landscape that involves several powerful nations balancing each other out) and criticize U.S. unilateralism, calling out double standards.

China wants stability for its economy and generally avoids controversy, but does not want to see Russia collapse. India is democratic but reliant on Russian arms, discounted oil, gas and fertilizer.

Global rules-based order and Russia

Politicians and commentators are demanding a global order that takes seriously the rules of the United Nations Charter, notably on respect for sovereignty and fundamental human rights.

While Russia invasion of Ukraine is the immediate spur, China's Conduct in the Indo-Pacific region has prompted similar calls.

It’s a fight between autocracies and democracies, but a global rules-based order clearly requires the West to take those rules seriously too.

The United States, for example, has refrained from joining the International Criminal Court, even as it advocates for war crimes trials for Russian soldiers and politicians.

Railing against China’s encroachment on the marine sovereignty of its neighbours in the South and East China Sea (in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea - UNCLOS) also isn’t helped by the U.S. failure to ratify that treaty or participate in its tribunal.

And there is a similar penchant for arbitrariness when it comes to trade rules and the World Trade Organization, health rules and the World Health Organization, which may further erode liberalism.

The essential issue is not merely inconsistency in following rules that have uncontested legitimacy. Rather, it’s whether those rules have withstood the assaults on their legitimacy by their western architects.

Western hypocrisy

Russia’s Ukraine invasion has resulted in a massive exodus of people, exceeding 6.4 million at this point. Their reception in neighbouring Poland and Hungary has contrasted starkly with the treatment of equally desperate refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, among others. The conduct of supposedly liberal nations (from Great Britain and France to Nordic states, Canada and the United States) in terms of how they’ve received Ukrainian refugees compared to those from other nations has shown liberal nations' hypocrisy.


The scale of the sanctions taken against Russia is unprecedented but the hard part for Europe has still to come and divisions and differences of opinion may appear, not on the conflict itself, but on the future of the continent.

This war awakens different wounds and different approaches. It poses such a profound challenge to the international order that it would be surprising if disagreements did not arise in the necessary democratic debate.

The current strategic regional landscape of Eurasia, dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has fundamentally altered the global order with implications across the geopolitical, security, economic and humanitarian levels.


One month ago, during a visit to Kyiv, with U.S.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States wanted “to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine”. With his strategy to “weaken” Russia, Biden’s dangerous new Ukraine endgame may be turning the Ukraine war into a wider one.

What will the implications be for the Eurasia region as a whole, as well as for its sub-regions?  How an escalation in Russia’s hostile actions could increase future risks of an extended conflict and till where Russia’s influence could extend in the post-Soviet space?