Most people tend to take a neutral position in relation to the various parties who are embroiled in a conflict. Moreover, the very essence of neutrality can be of a different nature, i.e. one may walk past a street fight, stop and take a look or even attempt to intervene. In the latter case, neutrality may also look somewhat different, from shouting encouragement to force intervention. The outcomes of implementing each of the various strategies of neutrality will be different as well. And as it is for both parties of a conflict, it is for the person who is “neutral”.
All these domestic considerations completely correspond to international politics, the history of which were, and still formally operate, rather influential alliances of made up of “neutrals”
Today, only the middle-aged and older people remember that there was a reputable international player as the “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM). It was a counter-balance during the Cold War between the two opposing political and military camps; NAM fulfilled, to a certain extent, the role of a buffer in the global conflict at that time.
The starting point of its formation can be traced back to the infamous Bandung Conference in 1955 as a meeting of African and Asian states and whose main participants were India and China. NAM was formed as an international organization in 1961, but without China, whose relations with India at that time had deteriorated sharply.
However, in China’s absence, there were problems in the movement that were mainly due to differences in “sympathy” among some of its members to one of the opposing cold war sides. Therefore solutions at NAM conferences, which were held once every three years, were adopted with difficulty and these decisions themselves “to a certain extent” influenced the course of the Cold War.
With its end, motivation for the continued functioning of the movement disappeared altogether. Formally, it still exists today, including more than two-thirds of UN member countries. However, the world press remembers it only in connection with its regularly scheduled conference, the last of which took place in Tehran in 2012.
As for the prospects for the rise of a new political movement of “neutrals”, and in view of the continuing process for the reshaping of the world political map of the Cold War period, that is difficult to determine; with respect to what, to whom and why would a country take a position of neutrality in another “non-aligned movement”.
Any considerations or thoughts on this topic today can only be posed with a hypothetical character, but that does not mean they are completely useless. That is because in recent years the international situation is somewhat analogous to the situation that had existed on the eve of the First World War. What is somewhat troubling though is, their authors, along with scientists in the humanities, of which can be forgive a particular flight of fancy, are responsible politicians.
The main actors of such analogies are the U.S. and China. But most of the policies of the current world leader will depend on the answer to the question of justice which today parallels with the events of a century ago.
And in its current version, the “non-aligned movement”, it is more dead than it is alive, as evidenced by the change in attitude towards it on the part of India, as during the Cold War, India was the movement’s unofficial leader.
India and the “Non-Aligned Movement”
The question of the relevance of the movement for India was evident in recent months as part of discussions about possible shifts in India’s foreign policy after the parliamentary elections were held in India in April and May of this year. They culminated in the resounding defeat of the older party, the Indian National Congress and its allies and with the triumphant victory of the right, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Representatives of the same right-wing Indian political party today argue that, the “momentum” of foreign policy, which began with the 1998 nuclear tests, had “evaporated at the time of Manmohan Singh’s second term as prime minister”. At the same time they reminded that this “momentum” had occurred in the period from 1998 to 2004, a time when the BJP was in power. This statement is undoubtedly present within a domestic political context, due to the realities of the struggle of those in the Indian National Congress party for influence on public opinion in the country.
At the same time, there has been a long observed nostalgia for “British India” as one of the leading Asian powers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its decedents increasingly consider themselves to be India’s current political elite. This is related to the semi-official claims of India to Pakistani controlled area of Kashmir and a growing involvement in the situation in Afghanistan, as it was during the rule of “British India”.
In modern India, the postcolonial period is ending and since the end of the 90s of the previous century, a new process is evolving, transforming the country into one of the leading “normal” international players. India quite clearly identifies what their national interests are and is clearly resolved to protecting those interests through diplomacy and by the use of armed force.
After the BJP, led by Narendra Modi, (who is already being referred to as the “Indian Shinzo Abe”) came to power, the significance for India of historic and geopolitical alliances “declined” and what initially encompassed the non-aligned movement, would, in all likelihood, continue to fall. But in order to counter China’s comprehensive growth, this will require the formation of quasi-alliances with Japan, Australia, and Vietnam and unquestionably with the United States.
In particular, Indian experts have recently considered the possibility of an “Asian” analog of the “Triple Alliance” that was formed in 1882 by Otto von Bismarck. Its membership could include India, Japan and the United States.
However, the road to creating such a union is fraught with dangerous and could cause problems, among which are the new trends in how the U.S. is positioning itself on the global stage.
“Neo-isolationism” of the U.S.?
It may seem unlikely today, but U.S. foreign policy might start moving in the direction of “quasi” neutrality, or more specifically, a “detachment” from the world’s cataclysms. And that, despite the expectations of a particularly fierce Russian “anti-American” attitude, does not mean the next “end of history”.
Simply put, new global players will occupy the main places at the table of global political games. Some of them can be identified right now. Along with China and Russia, you can already include Japan, India and Germany. In addition to those players, on the regional level you can include Iran, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa.
A precondition of the specified shifts in U.S. foreign policy is the reduction in the level of influence of the “neoconservatives”. It is difficult to say what interests these past transnational structures serve, but their activity obviously contains an element of an anti-national character; and this is contrary to the interests of most Americans.
Judging by everything, such evaluations of the activity of the “neocons” are no longer able to prevent propaganda images periodically thrown into American public life. It has long used the image of the “city on the hill” and recently added the concept of “American Exceptionalism”.
The rejection of primitive propaganda and primarily the policies of military intervention of the course of the last twenty years in the affairs of other countries actualize the concept of “neo-isolationism”, which in one way or another has always been present in the identity of North Americans.
The starting position for “neo-isolationism” would be the rejection of the role of world policeman and “democratizers” of anything and everything; the only result from this is usually the ruin of the democratizing countries, as well as the widespread growth of anti-American sentiment. According to the opinions of the “neo-isolationists”, the appeal to the U.S. from other countries may well be contact within the sphere of economic, scientific and the technological progress of the country.
The proof of the certain impact of “neo-isolationism” on public policy would be actualized in the military-political strategy of “offshore balancing”, stating that the policy of interference in international conflicts is worth pursuing only on “some” occasions and not every time. Each of these “some” cases requires would require separate consideration.
Judging from everything, this time the U.S. will refrain from direct military intervention in another conflict in Iraq; this time giving other enthusiasts, the “fight against terrorism”. But equally ambiguous is U.S. behavior on the south-east coast of China; and that’s the areas that is most dangerous for maintaining global peace region, despite public assurances in return of its closest regional allies.
To some extent, all of this and can be evaluated as a movement of American foreign policy toward neutrality with respect to emerging conflict situations in the various regions of the world that are far away from the United States. What seems natural in the shrinking potential of influence on these situations, which develop on their own, is not in line with a very clear internal logic.
For example, can anyone hardly influence the character of the development of the political game within the threesome of a “Japan-China-India”, which in the coming years will essentially determine the global processes? The dangerous accumulation of negativity within this threesome can only be ended by the participants themselves. But this is also not necessary. By the way, it is precisely for this reason the vain hopes are represented for the forming something resembling a political pole involving India and China, and moreover are anti-American.
U.S. aircraft carrier will most certainly not appear on the steppes of Ukraine under any scenario of development of Ukrainian crisis. This right would be contrary to the current tendency of the American military and political strategy not to engage in “trivial” conflicts. The motives of a tactical nature of current support are crazy “ukrainizators” and should not outweigh the strategic interest in retaining and even the development of constructive relations with Russia in order to solve problems in increasingly complex geopolitical game.
Generally, the supporters of this comprehensive (ideological, political, economic) madness in Ukraine await a series of “difficult discoveries”. As in the famous commercial, apparently in the near future, the paper on which appeared the line “Ukraine” will soon be referred to as “menu” rather than “quests”.
The positioning of Russia in the modern world
It is impossible not to note the existence of a rigid ideological confrontation among an active part of Russian society, almost all state-building, including the selection of the main course of foreign policy. As 80-90 years ago, today one can see the modern “right and left deviators”.
The current “Right deviators” trade in air, operating in rubber categories and dubious terms such as “the west and the western European values”, “democracy and freedom”, “democracies do not fight each other”, “totalitarianism and Asiatic” and “Mongol yoke”. Some of these fictions, i.e. freedom even try to “comprehend” drawing on not so much in the way of “algebra”, but of basic arithmetic.
The point of these manipulations is obvious: to build Russia in the conditional “West” against the same conditional of “Asia”, by which they mostly mean China. Meanwhile, the extraordinary interest in developing a productive relationship with this very same China is found in the very same leading EU countries and the U.S., that is to say, the “West”.
Generations of negative emotions from the category of “Asia” (“Asiatic still”) is intended to ensure its tethering to such conditions in the manner of “North Korea” and “Pol Pot”. At the same time the positive conditioned reflex to the category of the “West” should conjure up words such as “wealth and technological progress”, which is impossible in the absence of freedom and democracy.” Just as the American “neocons”, Russian “Right deviators” use virtually the same primitive propaganda. Perhaps this coincidence is not accidental.
Directly on the opposite end of the political spectrum, there can be seen attempts to build new messianic projects to rescue not only Russia, but the whole world. In so much as it is possible to understood, the prospect of a new Cold War against the “Americans” would be welcomed and which should start after the reforming of Russia’s ruling elite.
Meanwhile, for the (quasi-) neutral positioning of Russia in the modern world, one needs to read between the lines of “Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation”, one of the most fitting government documents in recent years that closely resembles reality; although questions do exist regarding it.
To implement a strategy of neutrality would be extremely difficult. For artificially created external crises, such as those unfolding in Ukraine and Syrian and Iraq, Russia will be forced to be involved in the current world game.
The danger of this withdrawal is caused by the fact that there is a rapid change of playing positions and the strategies of the players involved, including the leading players. One American expert expressed, (https://journal-neo.org/author/matthew-crosston), “welcome to everybody to this wonderful world of craziness in international affairs of today’s multipolar world”.
We can add that for Russia, there is not much of a chance that it can stay out of this “madness”, take a breath and finally occupy itself with the long overdue internal problems within the economic, social and social sphere. In particular, it appears, at least notable that the Ukrainian crisis erupted almost immediately after the announcement of President Putin in the shift of the priorities of economic development in regions located east of the Ural Mountains.
The development of Siberia and the Far East may well be a central goal of Russian state-building. And in achieving it, it could be very well open to all the current and future international players. That would be a real contribution to Russia and is so needed today as the formation of a new “damper” preventing the next buildup of a crisis in the world.
Vladimir Terekhov is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Asian and Middle East Studies of the Russian Institute for Strategic Research and a columnist for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.