Russia’s conflict with the West raises questions about the value of military and political alliances — RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

Even if we survive a global nuclear catastrophe within the next few years, the future fabric of international life is very uncertain.

The continued military and diplomatic clashes between Russia and the West, led by the United States, raise questions whose answers, until recently, seemed obvious. These include the phenomena of permanent alliances and allied relations.

It is no secret that the behavior of Moscow’s official allies in the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in the current environment raises questions for the Kremlin, while opponents of Russia raise hopes that the existence of these blocs is no longer an advantage, but a problem, for Russian foreign and defense policy.

We see examples of individual CSTO or EAEU member countries responding to US demands in matters related to the economic war against Russia. This begs the question how important and necessary are Russia’s allies when it cannot, like the United States, exercise authoritarian control over its foreign and defense policy?

The phenomenon of permanent alliance relations is a relatively recent invention of international politics – it emerged after World War II and it is completely unknown whether the next round of global upheaval of a similar magnitude will see it survive. Even if we are not all shattered by a widespread nuclear catastrophe in the years to come, what is happening makes the prospects for all the phenomena that have shaped the fabric of international life in recent decades very uncertain, without exception.

Today, the benchmark example of a permanent alliance of sovereign states is European integration. Another similar example is the NATO bloc, in which participation is cemented by the unfettered authority of a power far superior to its allies and which does not hesitate to make it clear.

It is no coincidence that the conflict over Ukraine, the first major war of the new era of international politics, is linked to the development of these two alliances. A strong group of states inevitably creates conflicts around itself. Indeed, this becomes a consequence of the fact that it protects the interests of its members.

From a theoretical point of view, the phenomenon of alliances is based on a simple formula: stability comes from the mitigation of the inevitable injustices between states of different strengths, by consciously considering the interests of the alliance partners as their own, or at least as close as possible to this.

It is also the basis of the idea of ​​collective security, formulated from the [early 19th century] time of the Congress of Vienna by Klemens von Metternich. By the way, he was the representative of the weakest power among the victors of Napoleon and, moreover, located in the center of Europe, and therefore the most interested in a stable order. In other words, even relatively permanent alliances are the product of weakness rather than strength and are not the best way for a state to survive if it is unable to defend its interests on its own.

Not surprisingly, the idea of ​​permanent alliances did not take root until the middle of the 20th century, because the world in which the great European empires ruled did not require them to have permanent relations, only ad hoc relations. or motivated by interests.

Everyone knows how chaotic the formation of the coalitions that started in 1914 was. Their final composition had less to do with common views or even the strategic interests of the participating countries, and more to do with an ad hoc calculation of the balance of forces and resources each side needed to win. And because the balance turned out to be fair, the war, instead of the brash campaigns of the 19th century or the elegant maneuvers of the 18th century, became endless mutual annihilation.

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However, it was the century and a half before Europe’s decline as the strongest part of the planet that shaped the meaning of even short-lived alliance relations – all the European conflicts of the period of the « balance of forces » were wars of coalitions.

The continuous formation of military alliances of powers has been caused by the inability of each of them to defend their interests by relying on their own forces. This practice was still infinitely different from the blocks we know today, but it already reflected their main point – the combination of participants’ power abilities to achieve a specific goal.

This was usually a victory over a state which, for internal reasons, had acquired the stature or audacity to claim too large a slice of the pie in the distribution of power in the European political arena. Several times alliances were formed against France, sometimes against Prussia, once against Russia and never against Great Britain – the insular position of this state did not make it a continental threat.

However, at the time, alliances could not be permanent, as there was never any question of their participants not being able to survive without relying on allies.

In principle, we see the same thing today, when it comes to the biggest nuclear powers – the United States, Russia or China. They don’t need allies to survive. Their main interest is to use the territories of their partners as a base to deploy their forces in the event of a conflict with an equally powerful enemy.

Another dimension is that the direct organizational forms of relations between the most powerful countries and the others may be different. But this does not depend on their need for allies as such, but on the extent of their own resources necessary for complete control of these satellites. The United States still has huge amounts of it, while Russia or China have much less, which leads to peculiarities in the behavior of those with whom the two powers enter into permanent alliances.

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So we see how, in the last hundred years, the phenomenon of permanent alliances has taken on a complete form, and it seems very archaic. In cases where the ruling power is not ready to play the role of dictator for subjective or objective reasons, the bloc becomes a factor of diplomatic interaction between them rather than an instrument to guarantee the collective interests of its participants. Even today, Armenia, a conditional ally of Russia in the South Caucasus, can use the presence of the CSTO as a means of pressure on Russian diplomacy while exempting itself from all responsibility. In another instance, however, we are witnessing a direct military clash between Russia’s official allies – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – each demanding support from Moscow.

As a result, the whole idea of ​​an alliance in the usual sense of the word has become meaningless. First and foremost, for its main participant. Small Member States obviously have neither the alternative options nor the military, political or demographic resources to survive independently.

This helps us solve the problem of formal preservation of such associations, even if they lose much of their necessary functions and contents. However, it must be understood that in the future, Russia, like its neighbours, will either have to give up the idea of ​​institutionalizing its relations, or resort to slightly more authoritarian modes of governance.


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