Amid BRICS' rise and 'Arab Spring', a new global order forms
With American unilateralism ebbing, Western nations and the rising BRICS countries are still finding their way to a new geopolitical balance – and Arab Spring nations like Syria are caught in the middle.
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Rather, the "enabling of Assad," as The New York Times described the joint veto, points more largely to a world order that appears makeshift and in drift.Skip to next paragraph
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'The next order'
'[The BRICS] are leery that the West is saying 'welcome to the club' – but the order we erected after World War II is here to stay," says Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "They say, 'That order was your order. Now it is time to talk about what the next order will look like.' That's the rub – the difference between emerging and existing powers.... It is unfortunate this gamesmanship plays out over Syria."
Indeed, in the heat of the UN moment on Syria, it's easy to forget the double standards that many other countries see as part of the Western concept of order. The narrative of intervention from Kosovo – when NATO bombed the former Yugoslavia in 1999 – to Libya comes with shifting rationales and charges of US hubris. The US intervention in Iraq left a particularly bitter taste, with charges of US unilateralism. European states, too, reacted slowly to an Arab Spring in their former colonial states.
Almost on the same day that the US accused the BRICS of bad faith on Syria, for example, the Obama administration blocked a UN vote on Palestinian statehood. The White House had political considerations. But then the US voted against Palestinian membership in UNESCO, joined only by Latvia, Germany, and Romania (with 14 abstentions). Several BRICS voted in favor of it.
As for China and Russia, constraining US adventurism and Western power is "part of their foreign-policy identity," says Ben Judah of the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. "The Chinese remain deeply unnerved by 1989 ... and the Arab Spring. They wonder how a Middle East star performer like Tunisia, with a high growth rate, can be toppled by a popular protest."
The joint veto may have eased deeper frictions between Russia and China, which usually drafts behind Moscow on the diplomatic scene. On Oct. 11, Vladimir Putin, poised to replace the more Western-leaning Dmitry Medvedev as Russia's president, was in Beijing to sign a pending $7 billion natural gas deal with China, which has become the world's No. 1 consumer of energy.