27/4 – Walden Bello: China Could Be the Big Winner of the War in Ukraine

Walden Bello är en av världens ledande kritiker av företagens globalisering. I en intervju som Benjamin Wray gjort i  den radikala US-amerikanska tidningen Jacobin förklarar Walden Bello varför Rysslands krig är en chock för det internationella systemet – och varför det sannolikt kommer att påskynda Kinas uppgång.

Benjamin Wray for Jacobin:

The Ukraine war is a geopolitical crisis with truly global repercussions — with some of the most severe felt in the Global South. Many in the Middle East and Africa face major shortfalls in the food supply.

Egypt, for instance, imported 70 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine in 2021, and is now taking aid from neighboring states in fear of a popular rebellion over food scarcity. Sri Lanka has just announced a default on its foreign debts as it seeks a deal with the International Monetary Fund, and protests over food shortages continue to grow.

Those are only the most immediate knock-on effects. In the longer term, geopolitical relations are being realigned permanently. With Russia cut out of the dollar zone by Western sanctions, its economic reliance on the world’s rising superpower, China, is growing. The United States is seeking to take advantage of the Ukraine crisis to broaden its coalition to contain Beijing.

Few are better able to explain the war’s repercussions on the Global South than renowned Filipino scholar and activist Walden Bello. Currently teaching at Binghamton University, Bello is the author of over twenty books, the most recent being Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right and Paper Dragons: China and the Next Crash.

Founder of the activist think tank Focus on the Global South, for decades Bello has been one of the world’s leading critics of imperialism and globalization. He was a member of the Philippine Congress until 2015 and is currently running for vice president of the Philippines in an election set for May 9. He spoke to Benjamin Wray for Jacobin.

The war in Ukraine has been ongoing for almost two months now. What’s your assessment of the situation and where it is likely to go from here? And what do you make of the reactions to the war in the Global South in particular?

Walden Bello: First of all, it’s really a tragic development. I fully agree with the UN General Assembly in condemning Vladimir Putin’s invasion and asking for a peaceful settlement via negotiations to end the invasion. At this point, Russia and Ukraine seem to have reached a stalemate, which is all the more reason for negotiations to really begin seriously now. So far, I don’t think the negotiations have been taken seriously by the Russian side. It’s time to halt the invasion and for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

I think that most countries in the Global South have condemned Russia’s invasion but have been very hesitant to go beyond that, at this point, and be dragged into a US-NATO-led bloc. I think this is a recognition of three things. One is that it was partly NATO’s expansion right up to the borders of Russia that created the conditions for Putin’s countermove. This push to get countries on the border with Russia into NATO has been going on since 1994.

The West, and in particular the United States, has been involved in regime change in Ukraine, especially with the Maidan uprising in 2014, very much linked to fascist groups. And now this is being used by the United States for a real drive to regain its primacy as the global hegemon, seeking to rescue its tattered reputation after its defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was also a NATO defeat.

“Most countries in the Global South have condemned Russia’s invasion, but have been very hesitant to be dragged into a US-NATO-led bloc.”

So there has been great hesitation in the Global South to get on the US bandwagon. I think the big push from the Global South is just to make sure that negotiations for peace start. Already what seems to be negotiable is neutrality on the part of Ukraine, and to assure Russia that it would not participate in NATO-led moves against Russia. My sense at this point is that neutrality in Ukraine and a number of the other countries on Russia’s border might be the best solution.

This is the time to really push for peace, because there’s a stalemate. I think Putin needs an opportunity to save face, and I think the Ukrainians want to show the world that they successfully resisted the invasion. So the first step is a cease-fire. Then there will be hard negotiations over the Donbas region, where there is a big Russian-speaking population, but I think there can be a political solution to that issue, it’s not irresolvable. There can be a solution where those areas remain part of Ukraine, but at the same time rights are granted to the big Russian minority, and the security concerns of Russia are also satisfied.

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