The Week In Opinion

Ukraine crisis: Of strategic assumptions, economic shocks and a new world order

Destroyed Russian tanks in the Sumy region on March 7 amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin’s soldiers failed to overwhelm Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

Weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his tanks into Ukraine, many Western politicians and strategy experts were arguing confidently that a war in Europe would produce only one chief beneficiary: China.

It was also assumed that Mr Putin's soldiers would overwhelm Ukraine in no time at all, dealing the United States another foreign policy humiliation, similar to the one President Joe Biden suffered last August when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

It is now clear that many of these predictions were simply wrong, says global affairs correspondent Jonathan Eyal in his commentary.

Far from providing an inspiration to China in the art of using military might for political purposes, he says Russia's adventure in Ukraine is likely to alert Beijing to the fundamental pitfalls of such a military adventure.

The economic shocks of war

The crisis in Ukraine and the reaction of Western governments and companies are adding a supply shock which has already sent energy prices shooting up to levels not seen since 2008, says associate editor Vikram Khanna in his commentary.

The withdrawal from Russia of Western oil majors such as BP, Shell and Exxon means that future production and marketing could be impaired - which also pushes up prices.

Combined with rising food prices and hits to Russian supplies of base metals such as aluminium, titanium, nickel and palladium, the rise in inflation will be broad-based. Another risk will begin to loom larger - that of a combination of high inflation and recession, or stagflation.

"It could be back to the 1970s, but this time with war as a backdrop," says Mr Khanna.

A (new) new world order

What we are seeing from the conflict in Ukraine is the hardening of the division between US and Europe (and treaty allies such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea) on one side against Russia, with the potential of drawing in China on the other side, says Professor Chan Heng Chee of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Ambassador at Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In her commentary, she says it is not just simply a Cold War realignment of the past. It will be far more complicated - a division that will not be based simply on security and military issues, but will affect the flow of investments, trade and technology.

But there will be a group of countries in other regions that will split alignments on security and economics, she says. They do not see this as contradictory nor an exclusive alignment. They want to occupy a third space but move to cooperate with the US or with China depending on the issue, and they do take stands on critical issues.

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