OPINION: The Ukraine war one year on is a harsh reminder of the West’s diminishing influence

It has now been a year since Russia illegally invaded Ukraine, and major nations still aren’t shying away from doing business with the powerhouse.

At the time of writing, it has now officially been a year since Russian president Vladimir Putin greenlit a full-scale illegal invasion of Ukraine – an unexpected event that dramatically changed the world we live in today. As a result, our long-held assumptions about peace in Europe were shattered overnight.

Correspondingly, as is so often in the modern world, our ignorance as a Western society has once again been brought to the surface. As Putin has discovered, Russia can withstand the economic punishment inflicted by the West – and has many more allies than we’d like to think.

The fallout from Russia’s attack has resulted in immeasurable economic and social disruption, not only throughout Europe but across the world. As the West put sanctions in place to punish Russia, Putin responded by weaponising energy prices, attempting nuclear blackmail and growing closer to China. Russia sought to remind the US and Europe that they don’t rule the world – or have any control over how the rest of the world responds to such global crises. Despite Biden and former UK prime minister Liz Truss labelling Russia’s leader as an outcast, that’s simply not been the case as proceedings have unfolded.

A year after the invasion, powerful nations still aren’t shying away from doing business with Russia while refusing to condemn the war and agreeing with Putin’s notion that NATO holds some responsibility for the war. China, South Africa, India and Brazil all fall into those categories one way or another. Meanwhile, Turkey, a member of NATO, has provided military support to Ukraine as well as continuing to deal commercially with Russia.

“The US and its European allies have consistently presented Moscow’s actions as a threat to global order, but a lot of non-Western powers have seemed at most partially convinced,” Richard Gowen, the UN director at the International Crisis Group, told The Washington Post. “Basically, if there is going to be a new Cold War, many states outside Europe would like to sit this one out.”

This week, South Africa joined in military exercises alongside Russia and China, while India is purchasing over one million barrels of oil a day – significantly more than they were a year ago. While these nations all fall under different circumstances, it’s a stark reminder that we should step out of our echo chambers and never assume that fellow democratic regions will stand alongside the West without question. 

Chris Saunders
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