Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


We are living in a a world characterized by the return of inter-state threats and great power competition. How much emphasis should US put on Russia as opposed to the more systemic challenge represented by China’s strategic rise? And what should be the right balance between the military and non-military aspects of great power competition? 

We must look beyond immediate challenges in Europe and take stock of the broader shift in global power from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific.

In such a world   we need to think more globally about security which is increasingly affected by broader geostrategic dynamics to a degree and in ways so far unfamiliar.


The peace of Europe had been shattered in 1848 as revolutions swept across the continent. Then, in the past century, despite the creation of the League of Nations and an attitude of “peace at any price” to avoid a repeat of the First World War, there was a Second World War.

The old world order broke down after the demise of the Soviet Union. The unipolar moment for the US as a leader was neither accepted by other countries nor very successful, since problems and demand are very different and the US is not ready to take other preferences into account.

US must adapt to a world in which the Euro-Atlantic region will become a secondary theater in world politics, while taking into account the global implications of China’s rise and the evolution of the Sino-Russian relationship. But if this relationship remains cooperative, attempts to drive a wedge between China and Russia may prove challenging.

Current situation

Things are changing rapidly and the next years will shape what our world looks like and the values that will guide it not just for the immediate future, but for generations to come.

China has invested significantly domestically and around the world and is now attempting to change world institutions and become the first socialist superpower (with ambitions to expand its territory, such as in Taiwan and the Solomon Islands). One possibility is a closer cooperation between Russia and China.

Russia may wish to export resources eastwards, if sanctions and isolation persist after the Ukraine war. A closer cooperation between Europe and the US is possible in theory, but the US is focusing more on the Indo-Pacific region, perhaps in the form of an extended AUKUS bloc (Australia, the UK and the US).

Meanwhile, the UK is seeking to play a central role as it did under the Commonwealth, while India has not criticized Russia’s war with Ukraine and it must manage an enormous population striving for work and higher welfare.


Europe has been divided internally for a long time, with differences between northern and southern EU countries as well as older and newer members. And there has been tension between the bloc and the countries that wish to become members, but do not fulfill all the requirements.

Planning a step-by-step future enlargement would be a possibility. The war in Ukraine could be a game changer.  Europe’s borders have been open to refugees from Ukraine, who are free to travel wherever they wish and are quickly welcomed in childcare facilities, schools and the work force.

Europe can play a much stronger role in the new world order and must prioritize better cooperation among current and future members.  Steps can include a different kind of cooperation with Russia after the war in Ukraine, for example, in the form of investments like those outlined in the Marshall Plan after World War II that fostered peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.

The West and China

When western critics discuss the Chinese silk-road project, their focus is usually on debt traps or the creation of political dependencies. Less well known, however, is the geostrategic motivation behind the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As the US and its allies are trying to block Chinese trade and supply routes, the immediate goal of the numerous ports, corridors and railway lines of the BRI is to prevent the disruption of Chinese supply routes.

The European market could thus guarantee sales opportunities for Chinese products in the long run. If Beijing succeeds in tying Europe closer, China and Russia will have taken a big step towards their goal of neutralising US influence in Eurasia.

Beijing has a vested interest in a quick end to the Ukraine war. If this does not happen, China is likely to push forward with the expansion of the maritime silk roads.

De-dollarise the reserve currency

The freezing of Russian central-bank reserves has put all the world’s central banks on high alert. In order not to be blackmailed themselves, they are likely to shift reserves on a grand scale, thus destabilising the dollar’s position as the global reserve currency.

The role of the US dollar as a transaction currency is also a source of frustration.  Russia, China, India and Iran are trying to de-dollarise their economies by using a broader basket of currencies for foreign trade.

While Russia is settling its oil and gas transactions only in roubles, China’s is also upgrading the global status of its currency, with Saudi Arabia seriously negotiating to settle its oil deals with China in yuan.

If other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were to abandon the petrodollar, the returning greenbacks would in the short term probably further increase inflationary pressures in the US.

Setting and maintaining international order

Even if Moscow succeeds in winning the war in Ukraine militarily, in geopolitical terms it will fall back into the second tier, as China’s junior partner.  Following the Ukrainian reality check, geopolitical dreams of an independent European power pole will also certainly be re-evaluated by EU member states.

This leaves only China and the US as powers capable of setting and maintaining order. But American hawks want to “bleed Russia dry, topple Putin and signal to China to keep its hands off Taiwan”.

It would be therefore wise to examine what a rules-based, multilateral order might look like: one that provided a framework within which the core interests and security concerns of all the powers could be peaceably negotiated and reconciled.

A new world order?

It was in the unipolar context, when the US was the dominant global power and wielded disproportionate military and economic power, that it allowed itself to be pulled into long and grueling conflicts like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US learned the hard way that such a demonstration of power can prove highly costly and can have negative strategic consequences.

There are three possible future scenarios: 1, “chaos,” with no dominant player; 2, “bipolar,” where the world is coalescing into-democracy and non-democracy, possibly leading to a cold war and 3, where “multi-polarity becomes the stable outcome, leading to power balance and stable equilibrium.”

Conventional military power is still likely to be a significant sign of influence but so is the ability to channel other connectivity flows: whether functional flows like energy or trade or institutional and cultural flows.

It is to be seen which state (whether the US, Russia, China or others vying for global influence) will shape connectivity flows in a way that is most strategically effective and that incorporates as many allies and partners as possible within the global system towards its vision of a multi-polarity world order.


American foreign policy inconsistencies have grown, underscored by former President Barack Obama’s “leading from behind” and former President Donald Trump’s “America First.”

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has not been seen as a conflict between democracies and non-democracies by the majority of countries in South-Asia, South-East-Asia and the Indian Ocean-majority of small and middle powers. It is instead considered a conflict between Russia and Ukraine and indirectly between Russia and the US.

While the Western countries followed the US in opposing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many countries in Asia, the Middle East (West Asia), Africa, and Latin America remained neutral or in some cases even supported Russia to various extents.

In the Middle East, countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE that were once US closest allies now are hedging their bets.


The war in Ukraine is part of the struggle for a new world order. Russia and China are openly challenging the Pax Americana. But what the next world order will look like remains an open question.

In Beijing and Moscow, but also in Washington, the model of a multipolar concert of the great powers, with exclusive zones of influence, is finding support.

Europeans will have to take more direct responsibility for security in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East. The US will have to get used to more cooperative and balanced relations. Overall, these changes could lead to a more collaborative model of shared leadership.