The two main tools of the US and its allies to crush countries that dare to challenge its hegemony are its armed forces and economic sanctions. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US has carried out 251 military interventions (compared with 218 operations in the 200 years prior). But together with NATO, the US has become accustomed to invading and devastating countries with little military defense capacity, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. However, they have not been able to control these countries. Something similar occurs in the case of sanctions: more than 20 countries are currently under White House sanctions, and some of the more fragile countries have had their economies wiped out, like Venezuela, Cuba, Iraq and Zimbabwe. Though the goal of “regime change” has rarely been achieved, the result is always tragic for the people. Neither tactic has worked against Russia.
Russia’s armed forces are powerful and well-trained, and its industrial capacity is immense. The Western gamble of supplying arms to Ukraine – while highly profitable for the US war industry – is already beginning to run up against the lack of industrial capacity of NATO countries. In the first four months of the conflict, Russia used more missiles than the US is capable of producing in one year.
According to a study by the Center for Strategic International Studies, the US missile stock is already running low. The recent appeal by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for Latin American countries to send ammunition to Ukraine – unanimously refused by the region’s presidents – shows signs of NATO’s growing difficulties.
According to the Ukraine Support Tracker, approximately $143.6 billion (as of January 15, 2023) has already been earmarked for Ukraine, of which $44.3 billion is for weapons already sent or financed by the US. Not since the Vietnam War has the US military-industrial complex made so much money, but last month, the White House itself warned that its resources for supporting Ukraine are not infinite.
Never before in history has a country suffered as many sanctions as Russia, which is targeted by thousands of them. Even with more than $300 billion of its international reserves frozen – perhaps the greatest “legalized” theft in history – in addition to suffering severe trade and financial restrictions, the Russian economy has been less impacted than the West expected. Its GDP shrank by only 2.2 percent in 2022, a kind of feat for a country under these conditions.
A target of sanctions since 2008, Russia had already been preparing economic antibodies to defend itself from further attacks. But above all, one cannot easily devastate a country that has a huge amount of strategic natural resources, produces a lot of food and fertilizers, and has such a powerful industry.
Moreover, the small number of countries that today apply sanctions against Russia (US allies) represent only 25 percent of the world’s GDP. The other 75 percent want or need to trade with Russians.
China, for example, has increased its trade with Russia by 34.3 percent by 2022 (to $190 billion), while India has become the largest buyer of Russian oil and nearly quintupled its trade with the Eurasian country over the last year. The three countries are partners in the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the pillars of a growing movement of Global South countries seeking a greater voice in determining their future and that of the planet.
The European Council of Foreign Relations has just published a survey on public opinion in the countries of the US-Europe axis, plus China, India, Russia, and Turkey (a NATO member). Even after a year of a constant Western media campaign to demonize Russia, most people in these four southern countries, amounting to about three billion people, want the war to end as soon as possible, even if it means accepting Russian control of territory previously belonging to Ukraine.
Furthermore, 80 percent of Indian, 79 percent of Chinese, and 69 percent of Turkish people believe that Russia is an “ally” or a “necessary partner,” with most Indians seeing the Russians as “allies,” while most Turks see them as “necessary partner”.
Most African countries have not forgotten the role of the Soviet Union in their anti-colonial struggles against the European powers, and maintain excellent economic and political relations with Moscow to this day. Last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to convene a meeting with the African Union, but only four countries showed up.
At this point, the offensive of the US and its allies against Russia has increased awareness among Global South countries that it is necessary to strengthen the regional and global initiatives that are “not aligned” with Western hegemony.
Unsurprisingly, more and more countries have created alternative mechanisms to the use of the US dollar – so often used by Washington as a “weapon of mass destruction.” China has already made agreements for the use of local currencies with about 25 countries, and the BRICS countries are studying the implementation of a mechanism that would allow them to bypass the dollar. More than 20 countries have already expressed interest in joining the SCO or BRICS in the last months.
In a recent burst of sincerity, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was shocked by how much the West is losing credibility in the Global South. But a few days ago, he himself shocked the world by arrogantly criticizing the president of Democratic Republic of Congo in front of TV cameras. The French president’s attitude reveals a deep pattern of paternalism, from Washington to Brussels, shaped by centuries of colonialism and imperialism. Some things never change, but the world definitely needs and is beginning to shape a new order.
The author is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, co-editor of Dongsheng Collective, organizer of the No Cold War campaign.