This crisis has ended a world order that was established in the 1990s Image Credit: Gulf News

The Ukraine crisis has taken the world by surprise despite the fact that it was brimming for years or even decades. Regardless of the geopolitical motives that have driven both sides to the edge, the fact remains that countries outside the immediate nucleus of the conflict stand to lose as much as those directly embroiled in it.

The world was starting to recover from the devastating effects of two years of pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least six million people while grinding the global economy to a halt through lockdowns and breaks in critical supply chains when this catastrophic conflict broke out.

What is ironic is that almost three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union and the birth of a new world order with a sole superpower in charge, we suddenly find ourselves fighting a 21st century war under the rules of the 20th century.

Ukraine crisis implodes

The advent of globalisation, the IT revolution now about to take us into the age of 5G technology and the metaverse, economic interdependencies, a domineering financial system whose keys are in western capitals and emerging markets elsewhere and with wars being abandoned for regional coalitions based on economic and security complementarities, the Ukraine crisis implodes.

The Russian action has united the western front but only briefly. Beyond the full economic blockade that aims at suffocating the Russian economy, Europe now finds itself facing fallout that will arrest its economic growth and recovery. From energy to food security the list is long.

The blockade has been applied not at a small country like Cuba, Iraq or Iran, but at an injured world power that happens to be the main source of gas and oil to energy starved Europe. Both Ukraine and Russia supply more than 30 per cent of the world’s grains and plant oils. The list goes on to include key metals such as nickel used in batteries that power millions of cars and appliances.

Slowing of global economic growth

If the fallout from the blockade is already being felt at American and European gas stations, think of how smaller countries will be affected in the short run? The Middle East will be particularly affected by the loss of Russian and Ukrainian grain supplies. Those suffering already include Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon and Tunisia among others.

The World Bank has warned that the crisis will slow global economic growth in an unimaginable way. Higher oil prices mean that critical supply chains will be affected and food prices will skyrocket all over. No country or even a bloc of countries can mitigate the seismic aftershocks of an interruption in supply chains that will affect every imaginable sector of any economy.

The longer the crisis goes on without a diplomatic solution the more the damage to a global economy that was designed for interdependence. There is going to be unexpected ripple effects.

The fact of the matter is that the blockade is a double-edged sword; for the global economy we have got so adapted to since the 1990s it means catastrophe. This is why this unique crisis cannot be fought on an ideological basis alone. There will have to be readiness to look back and examine how one superpower in charge has administered the world for more than 30 years.

The global mindset has changed dramatically following 9/11 and then changed again when the US and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003 and yet again when Nato intervened in Libya in 2011 — all without UN backing. Our region, in particular, has had the bitter taste of the unilateral actions of a sole superpower dictating policy and conveniently using international laws.

Moralising of the West

There is also a sad irony about the moralising of the West throughout this crisis.

Globalisation has been a mixed gift to the world with avarice and abuse of this planet’s resources bringing us climate change, diseased oceans and pollution that is now a threat to us all. The solution does not lie in rejecting globalisation but in humanising it and correcting its current course.

This crisis has ended a world order that was established in the 1990s. There will be a phase of a new Cold War and entrenchment as the world rubs off the ashes the crisis will leave behind. What lies next is a mystery. But what is needed is for new emerging powers to contribute to a new order that must come out of the current disorder.

Smaller countries, which will pay a dear price, will have to step in and offer words of reason before we find ourselves heading blindly towards a nuclear war.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman