Sunday, September 24, 2023 | 09:49 WIB

Middle powers thrive in the post-Ukraine world order


Jakarta, IO – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine confirmed a global shift that many international relations experts have been heralding for years: we now live in a multi-polar world. Thanks to major geopolitical turning points – from Washington’s missteps in Iraq to the 2008 financial crisis – as well as long-term shifts – most obviously the rise of China – it is now clear that the ‘unipolar’ era of unfettered American leadership after the Cold War is over. 

Despite the impressive unity that the Western world has shown in supporting Kiev, the fact the White House has not been able to persuade, cajole or pressure the rest of the world into material support for their position lays bare this reality. 

Aside from Australia and Japan, Asian countries have not joined the sanctions regime on Moscow, nor have states in Africa, South America or the Middle East. These states are both wary of alienating Russia or China, but crucially, they know that the West no longer has the strength to bend other states to their will. 

This has created clear strategic opportunities, and some countries, especially the world’s so-called ‘Middle Powers’, have wasted no time in leveraging this new geostrategic context to enhance their positions. The Middle East is a good example of this, where three ‘middle powers’ – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – have led the way. 

Before Russia’s invasion, Turkey’s relations with the west, especially the United States, were at a low ebb. While remaining in NATO, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was furious with Washington for backing ‘terrorist’ Kurdish militants against ISIS. In turn, the US was wary of Ankara’s increasingly close ties to Moscow, including its purchase of Russian S-400s, which led Washington remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter programme. 


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