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The Interconnected Global Community: Defying Isolationist Notions

In a world where deglobalization has become the fashionable political sentiment, the idea of isolationism seems increasingly popular. Yet the interconnectedness of economies, cultures, and societies across the globe has made it impossible to ignore the impact of international relations on a local scale. Ukraine, China, Russia, their relationships to the West or the Global South and the Indo-Pacific are not isolated pockets of diplomacy but rather interconnected pieces of the intricate puzzle that is our global community.

The war in Ukraine underscores how disruptions in one region can send shockwaves throughout the global economy. China has recently increased its involvement in the Ukraine war, indirectly but clearly. Not only has Chinese trade with Russia in dual-use components increased considerably, but in July, Chinese troops have arrived in Belarus on "anti-terrorism" joint training. Belarus has been a staging post for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a transit channel for illegal breaches of the border with Poland and the Baltic States by Russian people traffickers.

China's military arrival in Belarus has broken the idea that the European theatre and the Indo-Pacific theatre are separated. This notion is at the centre of US military and diplomatic debate. Put simply, politicians of all stripes in the US would like Russia's military and economic capabilities to be degraded by the war in Ukraine. This for instance includes weaning Europe off Russian energy and agricultural output, and increasing its reliance on US energy and grains exports. Military, the idea is to prevent Russia from being able to launch a wider conventional war in Europe. The plan stops short of an outright defeat for Russia, because the threat of that is a declared nuclear threshold. Putin is one of the few world leaders who can claim that "l'état, c'est moi." Any danger to his life is a danger to the Russian state. A threat to either is an escalation the US is unwilling to risk, yet.

The second part of the plan is for Europe to pay for its own defence against Russian aggression. This is more stridently vocalised by Donald Trump but democrats share the goal. The notion that the US defends itself when it defends Europe has evaporated. NATO, whatever fine words are uttered at the NATO summit this week, is now far more transactional.

The idea is that, once the US has freed resources from Europe, it can concentrate on its strategic competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. That includes not only trade tariffs and the prevention of certain categories of US firms from investing in China, but naval manoeuvres in the South China Sea, where China and the Philippines, a close US ally (and essentially a US protectorate from 1898 to 1948) have a rapidly deteriorating relationship.

Unfortunately, this idea of separating the theatres of activity has been pointedly undermined by the arrival of Chinese troops in Belarus just days before the NATO summit. China is saying, we are not only economically active in Europe, but militarily.

Furthermore, to the disappointment of AUKUS members, India's PM Modi has visited Russia just as the NATO summit was convening, and was photographed hugging President Putin even as Russia was bombing a children's hospital in Kiev. India is pursuing a policy of self-interest and is focused on developing the BRICS into more than a catch-all economic acronym. AUKUS (The tripartite Australia, UK and US naval and intelligence operation) hopes to expand to include partners like Japan and South Korea. China sees this as encirclement as well as impertinent interference by European small powers like the UK, which it has warned to stick to fixing its internal problems. The arrival of even a token number of Chinese troops on the European mainland is a clear "two can play at that game" message.

On the subject of the BRICS, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed preferred to attend a BRICS meeting than the recent G7 meeting in June, to which he was invited. A diary clash is one thing, but Saudi Arabi is going further. The Kingdom warned G7 nations that it might sell of European debt holdings if the G7 went ahead with plans to seize hundreds of billions of dollars of Russian assets that have been frozen since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The plans have been scaled back to seize only profits made by the assets rather than the assets themselves.

The Indo-Pacific region, encompassing some of the world's fastest-growing economies and most pressing security challenges, serves as a microcosm of the interconnected nature of our global community. The dynamics between countries in this region, such as China, India, Japan, Australia, and the United States, have far-reaching implications for international trade, security, and diplomacy. What happens in the Indo-Pacific cannot be separated from what happens in Europe. Even as the US and China appear to be drifting into a trade war, so do the EU and China.

Hypothetically musing, if at some future point, China should restrict access to the South China Sea to certain non-Chinese flagged or owned vessels, what would the US response be? The Chinese action might not be considered an act of war if it was not a full blockade of another country’s ports. China after all insists on the nine-dash line and derogates the courts that have rejected its position. In Europe, Russia’s jamming of aviation signals around Kaliningrad could be legally construed as a blockade, but is not overtly referred to as one by the EU or NATO. The severance of undersea cables can be construed as a blockade, but could be enacted as an act of unpeace rather than an act  of war. Perhaps, if China were to use its military navy, now the world’s most numerous, to restrict access to the South China Sea, the US would seek to control access to the Panama Canal. Such acts would undoubtedly lead to massive disruption in world trade, decreasing the efficiency of global shipping.  

The world is undeniably more interconnected than isolationists would like to believe. Events in regions like Ukraine, China, Russia, and the Indo-Pacific are not isolated incidents but interconnected threads that weave together the fabric of our global community. By recognizing and embracing this interdependence, we can navigate the complexities of the modern world with foresight and resilience. As professionals operating in this dynamic environment, we should note the shifting power dynamics and do what we can to encourage strategic partnerships that promote stability and growth.

Check back for more insightful editorials on global affairs and professional insights. Stay informed, stay connected.

SEO Keywords: Trade, Ukraine, China, Russia, Indo-Pacific

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