When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Geopolitics

A New Cold War Calculus: Ukraine's Domino Effects Around The World

The war in Ukraine has set off the dynamics of a new Cold War: a standoff between democracy and authoritarianism, whatever the ideological stripe. Faraway parts of the world will be affected by what happens on the ground in Ukraine.

Photo of a placard during an anti-Putin protest, showing a mashup photo of Putin and Stalin

Vladimir Stalin?

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Editorial-

LONDON — Two months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians and their leaders' political skills have created responsibilities for the West and the democratic world. The first day of the invasion was a wake-up call for the West and its allies. The world is returning to bipolarity and a new Cold War.

If the last Cold War was between Soviet communism and Western capitalism, this one is between a front of liberal democracies and their authoritarian rivals. Younger people might call it Cold War 2.0.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

So what will be the characteristics of this next-generation Cold War? That will depend on how the war in Ukraine ends.


The invasion has already shown the West with cruel scenes its governments cannot easily ignore. These images will play a role in shaping future relations between the Western and Eastern fronts. There are several possible scenarios.

If "Putinism" prevails

The first is a limited war with a Russian victory. President Vladimir Putin no longer speaks of a "special military operation" as he initially termed the invasion, but has suggested the war could end by May 9 (the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Hitler). Its declared aim was to "liberate" the Donbas or Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine, bordering Russia, where a separatist movement emerged after the 2014 Russian takeover of the Crimea.

This outcome would boost Russia's geopolitical influence and role-playing in Eurasia, eastern Asia and notably the Middle East. Europe and the United States would see their political and diplomatic weight reduced in that case.

Some see this as the right time to strengthen Iran's relationship with Moscow.

Another scenario is a limited war with a Russian defeat. The victors would include not just Ukraine, but the EU, the United States and their allies, with Russia cornered, for a while at least. Observers believe this might produce one of two outcomes inside Russia: either the end of the Putin presidency, indeed "Putinism," or the regime's radicalization and an exacerbation of tensions with the West.

Dragging in China, Japan Or Arab States

Another outcome could be a ceasefire followed by a compromise. Ukraine would forgo its desired membership of NATO, the Donbas "republics" would remain as they are, without international recognition, and there would be a return to pre-Feb.24 conditions. That would leave Ukraine in ruins, and the Baltic states in a state of fear, in spite of their NATO memberships because Western states have already shown that they are loath to confront Russia.

A limited conflict may then continue — for an unlimited time. This could produce clashes beyond Ukraine or Europe, and drag in distant countries. China, Japan, India, Iran, Arab states and even certain African states may be unable to maintain their present neutrality.

Japan, for example, recently reiterated its charge that Russia had been illegally occupying its Northern Territories or the disputed Kuril islands since 1945. As a sign of the current state of unease, this was the first time since 2003 that it has raised the issue of the islands it had to cede to the Soviet Union after the Second World War.

Photo of \u200ba soldier aboard a U.S. submarine, monitoring Russian exercises in the Kuril Islands

American submarine monitored Russian exercises in the Kuril Islands

U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Moscow's isolation as opportunity for Iran

A little before the war, the Vienna negotiations on Iran's nuclear program were broken off without the Islamic Republic and world powers reaching an agreement. Russia had played a leading role in the preceding weeks, but it is now mired in war and uninterested, in any case, in ending the talks. For U.S. and EU negotiators, a pact with Tehran would only be of interest if it could distance it from Moscow. China is not in any hurry to end the talks either.

Russia's estrangement from the West could thus prove an unexpected boon for Iran.

The Islamic Republic imagined that Western parties would become more flexible and focus on the bigger crisis of Ukraine, accepting the new "red lines" its negotiators had been instructed to present. But the Western side has merely postponed talks to an unspecified date, when relations with Russia are clearer and fighting has ended in Ukraine.

Inside Iran, partisans of a closer bond with Russia see the Ukraine war as the right time to strengthen the relationship with Moscow. They believe that facing sanctions and with a downgrading of ties with the West, Russia will be much keener to upgrade ties with the Islamic Republic. This, they hope, will consolidate the regime and finally fuel Russian enthusiasm for arms sales and military cooperation with Iran. Russia's estrangement from the West could thus prove an unexpected boon for Iran, and an opportunity to end its own isolation.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
food / travel

Denied The Nile: Aboard Cairo's Historic Houseboats Facing Destruction

Despite opposition, authorities are proceeding with the eviction of residents of traditional houseboats docked along the Nile in Egypt's capital, as the government aims to "renovate" the area – and increase its economic value.

Houseboats on the Nile in Zamalek, Cairo

Ahmed Medhat and Rana Mamdouh

With an eye on increasing the profitability of the Nile's traffic and utilities, the Egyptian government has begun to forcibly evict residents and owners of houseboats docking along the banks of the river, in the Kit Kat area of Giza, part of the Greater Cairo metropolis.

The evictions come following an Irrigation Ministry decision, earlier this month, to remove the homes that have long docked along the river.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ