New Economic Bloc

WITH an eye on the rising economic and military challenge from China, the United States launched Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)  in the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The IPEF has twelve initial partners with India one among them.  The deal assumes profound significance in the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine. At the root of it, the war is an ambitious bid by Russian president Vladimir Putin to challenge the US-dominance in the world and in this he seems to have a not-so-tacit support by his friend, the Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The conflict stems from Russia’s legitimate fears of being encircled by the west and the NATO military bases reaching its doorstep.  Many of the Eastern European countries which were once a part of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact have become a part of NATO, heightening Russia’s insecurity. The growing likelihood of Ukraine also joining NATO became the last straw for Putin. While it is nobody’s case to countenance the invasion of a sovereign smaller country by its powerful neighbour, the solution to the evolving fraught situation can be resolved if the US-led West and Russia sit down and work towards addressing each other’s grievances and fears.

At the larger level, the war has become a great power battle royale. America faces one of its severest tests as the world’s sole superpower. Some western experts have already written the epitaph of America’s unipolar moment. In that sense, it would be interesting to see who blinks first in this great power war of nerves. And that could decide the new superpower of the world. But America, despite its recent setback in Afghanistan, its failure to have its way in Syria in the teeth of the opposition from Russia and Iran, remains the world’s No 1 power. Its GDP and defence expenditure remains several times higher than its nearest competitor China. But in Ukraine, we are at an interesting moment in history. The outcome of the war will determine the new global geopolitics if not the new superpower of the world.

But as the IPEF would have us believe, the US has sought to demonstrate that far from being hemmed in by the Russian invasion, would only further expand its global footprint. By launching IPEF, the US has sought to further encroach into what China considers its sphere of influence. And in response to Ukraine war, it has sought to further aggravate the situation by encouraging Finland and Sweden, Russia’s neighbours to join NATO. This has created a very fraught geopolitical situation and we can only hope that its end result is not more war.

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