• Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Glenn Diesen for Gulan: The Ukrainian war is a direct result of the failure to establish a mutually acceptable post-Cold War settlement

Glenn Diesen for Gulan: The Ukrainian war is a direct result of the failure to establish a mutually acceptable post-Cold War settlement

Glenn Diesen earned a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with a dissertation titled Inter-democratic security institutions and the security dilemma. He was formerly based in Russia and employed by the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics,  and is now a professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway.  In a written interview he answered our questions as the following:

Gulan: In your perspective the Russian decision to invade Ukraine was primarily driven by what?

Professor Dr. Glenn Diesen: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is driven by a desire to put an end to NATO expansionism. Ukraine was traditionally very skeptical of NATO, however, in 2014 the NATO countries supported a coup in Ukraine that resulted in a fiercely anti-Russian government taking power. This government began to purge political opposition parties and opposition media that were Russian friendly. There was a peace agreement in February 2015, the Minsk-2 agreement, in which Ukraine accepted autonomy for the Donbas region to the extent it could block NATO expansion. The US sabotaged this peace agreement for 7 years and instead armed Ukraine. Russian objectives with this invasion is therefore sever Donbas from Ukraine, disarm the Ukrainian army, scale back the influence of Ukrainian nationalist forces that have had a dominant influence since 2014, and lastly prevent NATO expansion into Ukraine.

Gulan: What does the Russia- Ukraine war tell us about the great power politics? Have we ushered into another cold war?

Professor Dr. Glenn Diesen: The Ukrainian war is a direct result of the failure to establish a mutually acceptable post-Cold War settlement, which has now produced a NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine. After the Cold War, all sides agreed to establish a new inclusive pan-European security architecture “without dividing lines” based on “indivisible security”, in which either side should not expand their security at the expense of the security of the other. However, Russia was weak and the US pursued a security strategy based on global hegemony. All the pan-European security agreements were subsequently abandoned in favour of NATO expansionism. This meant that the dividing lines in Europe was not removed, but instead moved closer and closer to Russian borders. For the past 25 years, NATO has gradually expanded its security at the expense of undermining Russian security. The war in Europe now is a competition about where we should draw the new dividing lines. During the Cold War these wars were fought across the Global South, but in this new Cold War it is being fought in the middle of Europe.

Gulan: Can we say that this war has been another nail on the coffin of what has been called “rules-based order”?

Professor Dr. Glenn Diesen: The so-called “rules-based international order” is a mixture of international law and selective humanitarian law. The premise is that liberal values create an exception to international law, and only the West can exercise this privilege. The consequence is a hegemonic system of sovereign inequality in which the West can interfere in the domestic affairs of other states, topple governments, and invade under the guise of defending liberal democracy. In other words, sovereignty for us but not for others. This war represents Russia’s complete rejection of this “rules-based international order”.

Gulan: In your opinion where this war is heading, do you expect a further and wider escalation of this war? Or some negotiated settlement would be possible?

Professor Dr. Glenn Diesen: A negotiated settlement has become very difficult as the conflict has already escalated beyond control. For Russia this is an existential threat and cannot accept more NATO and American weapon systems along their borders. For NATO, which has put its entire prestige behind this war in Ukraine, also risks great uncertainty and internal divisions if they loose this proxy-war. If the Russian momentum continues and gains more and more territory, then there is an incentive in Washington to reach a negotiated settlement, but if more weapons can bring this conflict to a stand-still then the US will want to prolong this war to bleed Russia of its military and economic strength.

Gulan: How do you assess the effectiveness of the western’s reaction to the Russian invasion, especially the rapid and sweeping sanctions against Russia?

Professor Dr. Glenn Diesen: The Western sanctions have not had the intended effect. The West had expected to crush the Russian economic, financial system and currency very quickly, but we see that the Russian economy is under control, the financial system has stabilized and the currency is stronger than it has been in 7 years. In contrast, the Western economies are faced with an industrial decline, an energy crisis and an inflation that is no longer under control. The reason for this is that the West underestimated the Russian economy and because the world is now multipolar, and very few countries outside of NATO are willing to join the sanctions war against Russia. However, Russia should not celebrate too early as many of these sanctions will create more pain over the long run. I expect that many of these sanctions will create more pain after the summer as problems are building up. Although, the effectiveness of sanctions are usually measured by their ability to impact policies of the adversaries. This conflict represents an existential threat to Russia, and Moscow will therefore absorb the economic hardship and continue its policies irrespective of the sanctions.

Gulan: To what extent this war has changed or shifted the European’s calculation in terms of energy and military security? and what would be the implication of this shift on the future of this continent? 

Professor Dr.Glenn Diesen: The West has pursued a security strategy based on collective hegemony in the pan-European space, believing that they could continue to expand NATP and Russia would have to adjust to new realities. Now the Europeans faced with the dilemma of either recognizing Russian security interests in the pan-European security architecture or double-down on its hegemonic objectives, and it appears Europe is leaning towards doubling down. I believe that Europe has made a huge mistake but are unable to reverse its position. Russia is responding to the sanctions with a permanent divorce from European economies. This means that the Russian energy, metals and market will be redirected to the East. European industries will no longer be competitive in international markets as they lose their access to cheap Russian energy and metals, which are instead being sold on discounted prices to Asia with increasingly more competitive industries. The consequences of militarizing the dividing lines in Europe is that the continent will become much weaker as the EU becomes excessively dependent on the US, while Russia will become much more dependent on China.