The American global system of partnerships has managed to achieve mutual cooperation between states through liberal international institutions. The American-led alliance has managed to integrate the world’s major regions by opening the world economy through liberal policies of open trade, democracy and multilateral relations. Integration and cooperation of Western Europe, North America and North-East Europe has been enhanced by multilateral agreements through institutions such as the GATT and WTO, APEC, NAFTA and OECD. However, this American-led liberal order is in danger of instability because of America’s foreign policy at the start of the 21st century under the Bush administration. This article will use the Ukraine crisis to analyse how America’s policy of pre-emptive strikes under the Bush administration has damaged the credibility of the liberal order.
The end of the Cold War in 1991 meant that the politics of containment and power-balancing between the United States and the Soviet Union was over. The USA instantly had increased power advantages over all the states in the world, and thus they became the world’s only super power. This distributive power was put to practise when the Bush administration attacked and occupied Iraq amidst opposition from other liberal states. The United States with an allied grouping called the ‘coalition of the willing’, attacked Iraq without securing authority from the United Nations (UN). The UN is one of the liberal institutions which the Americans built to oversee matters relating to global peace and security. Despite the UN’s authority in this matter, the Americans and allies undermined international laws by attacking Iraq on its own accord. Such was the case with the Kosovo war, when the European and North American democracies opted to intervene in the war through NATO and not the UN. This is all because the cost of non-agreement for America is too low, in that it can afford to violate the rules of the world.
The war in Ukraine is a war which has precipitated the dissipating relations between the Russians and the West. In early 2014, Russia usurped Crimea from Ukraine and the ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine took up arms to fight the Ukraine government. The separatists in Eastern Ukraine want to secede from Ukraine with the hopes of becoming part of the Russian Federation. The West has accused Russia of encouraging the situation by supplying the rebels with heavy and sophisticated weaponry in Eastern Ukraine. However, the Russians deny any involvement in the war despite the West’s claims that Russian fighters and weapons are being deployed through the Russian border.
Today Russia is violating the very same ideas of state sovereignty that the Americans helped to build through international institutions such as the UN. Perhaps Russia is emulating how the West has ignored international laws by attacking other countries when their interests are threatened. For the US and allies went and occupied Iraq in 2003 over false information of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and up to this day, no one has answered for the war in Iraq . Today, it is the destabilisation of Iraq that has paved way for Jihadist armies like the ISIS who are on a campaign to invade all of Iraq with the hopes of declaring an Islamic Caliphate. There are a lot of factors which are responsible for the rise of ISIS, but the primary reason why ISIS was borne, is because of the invasion of Iraq by George Bush and allies. President Vladimir Putin is also acting the way the West has in the last decade, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a move Putin has played to secure Russia’s future interests despite the breaking of international laws.
The West has since accused the Russians of aiding the pro-Russian rebels with heavy weaponry, a claim which Russia has denied time and again. If Russia is indeed supporting the rebels of Ukraine,is it not the same as the West supporting the rebels in Libya who in the end toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s government? The coalitions of Western countries, during the Arab Spring were only allowed to protect Libyan civilians through the UN resolution 1973, but in the end they used air strikes to aid the rebels who were fighting the Libyan government forces. Legal experts have claimed that the coalition of Western states who attacked Gaddafi went beyond the resolution by siding with the rebels of Libya and thus broke international law. If the West were right in supporting the Libyan rebels who were trying to topple Gaddafi, what is the difference between Russia supporting the rebels who refuse to recognise Petro Poroshenko’s presidency? For when the West attacked Gaddafi, it was the Russians who argued that intervening in a civil war by siding with the rebels, broke international law. It is then very hypocritical of the West to take the high moral ground in this case, because the West has time and again flouted international laws through wars with other countries.
All in all, the West has itself managed to break the rules of the liberal order, and that is why military powers like Russia are also able to do the same. It is double-standards for the West to accuse the Russians of breaking international laws, when they have on a number of occasions also broke these very same laws in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya. If America and its allies want other countries to adhere to the liberal world order and it’s rules, there is need for all powerful states to be exemplary by respecting the rule of international law. International laws should not only apply when the weaker states are involved, and If the hypocrisy by the West continues, who is going to control emerging regional powers such as China? If the UN can be undermined by its creators, regional powers like Russia will indeed take an advantage by fighting proxy wars with Ukraine, because the UN is no longer being respected by the powerful states of the world.
Image source: Global Panorama