Living in a world at war with itself

PALESTINIAN youths take cover during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the southern Gaza strip.

PALESTINIAN youths take cover during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the southern Gaza strip.

Published Jan 21, 2024


IN A week of intensely growing global tensions, Russia poured scorn over overtures of the US aimed at rekindling talks on nuclear proliferation.

Russia’s veteran foreign minister Sergey Lavrov revealed the Kremlin’s unmistakable disinterest in any talks with the US for as long as the Biden administration continues to serve as oxygen to Ukraine in its conflict with the neighbouring Russia.

In a nutshell, the total summation of this week’s geopolitical tensions paints a picture of an international community that is devoid of peace.

So far, more than 25 000 Palestinians had been cruelly killed in a relentless barrage of bombardment by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) aided by the US army through military, financial and human capital support.

Despite an uninspiring Qatar-brokered mini-deal between Israel and Hamas to allow medical supplies to the more than 100 captives in the custody of Hamas and Israel’s permission for international aid to be delivered to the annihilated Gaza Strip, hope about the future is all but non-existent.

The Houthis have vowed to carry on with the attack on the US, UK and Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea until the genocidal war on Gaza is halted.

For the fourth time in a week, the US and UK shelled Houthi positions inside Yemen, sparking fears of a rapidly expanding Middle Eastern conflict.

Still in the beleaguered region, Iran launched attacks on the neighbouring Iraq, and later Pakistan, arguing that it was targeting the positions of terrorist groups that had recently launched attacks inside Iran itself.

Turkey, meanwhile, launched its own air raid on positions in Syria. And Lebanon continues to exchange firepower with Israel across their border.

I raise the above examples as illustration of a world that is hardly at peace with itself, and also to make sense of the importance of Russia’s disinterested stance towards US overtures to sit around the table and discuss matters pertaining to nuclear arms.

Minister Lavrov explained: “Amid a ‘hybrid war’ waged by Washington against Russia, we aren’t seeing any basis, not only for any additional joint measures in the sphere of arms control and reduction of strategic risks, but for any discussion of strategic stability issues with the US.”

He further claimed that Washington’s push for the revival of nuclear talks “has been driven by a desire to resume inspections of Russia’s nuclear weapons sites”.

In the light of Washington’s lead role as Ukraine’s handler in Kyiv’s war with Moscow, Lavrov described the overtures of the US as downright “indecent”.

Harsh words indeed, made more stinging by the absence of any semblance of diplomatic decorum in their articulation.

But then again, that explains precisely the reasons behind the lingering jitters in geopolitics and multilateralism.

The sense of mistrust between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers runs river-, nay, ocean-deep.

The US-led hegemony faces massive threats from the constant and continuous reconfiguration of the international world order.

The global south has found its voice, and purpose. South-south co-operation is on the rise. From the Caribbean islands and Latin America to Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the nations of the global south are demonstrating a break with their suppressive past. By and large, their solidarity with one another is evident, as is their audible disapproval of Western arrogance in geopolitics, a hangover from colonialism.

Most of the global south flatly refused to participate in the Western economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Historically, when the US ordered the global south nations to jump, all they did was always to ask: How high? Not anymore. This “anomaly” has become a new normal.

The rapid rise of China’s status as the world’s fastest-growing economy over the past decade, coupled with Beijing’s status as the world’s second-biggest economy after the US, places enormous strain on the hegemony of the West.

As key leaders of the BRICS-Plus bloc, the gradually influential global south network that is regarded in global affairs as an antithesis to the G7 is further evidence of a world order that is undergoing a metamorphosis of its own.

This week’s rebuke by the Russian foreign minister amidst a flare-up of cross-border military activities is worrisome in the extreme. They caused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to immediately call for de-escalation, similar to his initial calls for a ceasefire in the Israeli war on the people of Palestine.

The UN chief should be worried, very worried. Not only by the emerging spate of disease across the Gaza Strip, but also by the very Nato-led escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Kyiv has been buoyed by the financial bottomless pit of support from the West, coupled with tons of sophisticated lethal weapons in what Lavrov describes as America’s “hybrid war” against Russia.

This week, Ukraine said it has struck an oil terminal in Russia’s economic hub, St Petersburg. It is inconceivable that Russia will not up the ante. And that could mean anything, including increased bombardment of the Ukrainian targets throughout President Volodymyr Zelensky’s territory.

The US and its allies in the G7, EU and Nato had laid down the gauntlet by insisting on a “rules-based international world order” that is based on their brand of democracy, values and norms.

In pursuit of this world order, the US has used its might as the global enforcer of its will, with her allies invariably in tow.

Russia, China, South Africa, Latin America and many other nations in our continent, Asia and the Middle East have raised serious objections to the wilful undermining of the UN Charter, the principles of multilateralism and international law.

The above picture, I believe, does paint a picture of a troubled world, a world ravaged by wars and conflict with more still looming.

The situation in Sudan continues to be a blot on Africa’s push to break away from her heinous past. Tanzania and Kenya recently got tangled in a stand-off. Ethiopia and Tigray have given us a respite.

Further afield, the Korean Peninsula is on a knife-edge following the rapidly escalating tension between the North and South Korea. The solution, perhaps, truly lies in the expedited reforms of our multilateral institutions as well as global governance systems.