International Governance: Antagonist, Overly Competitive Foreign Policies Threaten Global Cooperation
The Brexit referendum drew a great of attention in late June, because Britain’s decision to exit the European Union was seen as the beginning of the end for the European Union and, ultimately, international governance. International governance is required to maintain a high degree of peace and stability across the globe. This writer has argued the Brexit was actually just an example of a country recalibrating its diplomatic relations to better reflect the interests of its People. On the other hand, events like the Ukraine Crisis, failing international intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and the South China Sea Crisis are not.
Although these conflicts involve confrontations between powerful nations and shifts in relations between countries, the overly competitive nature of these conflicts makes them threats to international governance. Competition is an inherent part of life, but too much competition is utterly counterproductive as it leads to mutually destructive conflict. To build communities and nations, cooperation is essential. When competition between antagonistic political factions becomes so fierce that nations can no longer be governed, deep divisions eventually degenerate into violent conflicts that tear nations apart, i.e. they lead to civil war.
The same is true on the global stage where nations face natural competition, which can either provoke antagonistic discord or provide the basis for cooperative relationships. Sustaining the International Community to avoid mutually destructive competition requires nations forgo antagonistic competition in favor of cooperation. Where suppressing, instead of addressing, the competing interests of nations like the US, Russia, and China for the sake of peace sows the seeds for future conflict, antagonistic approaches to foreign policy and degenerative competition between nations are the greatest threat to international governance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has political interests at stake in controlling Ukraine while Russia as a nation has interests in securing its Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea and an interest in safeguarding the Russian People from terrorism out of Syria. That said, Russian interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs and intervention in the Syrian Civil War strongly reflect the inherent competition over global influence between the West and Russia. Where the American People and the Peoples of Europe had largely moved on from the antagonistic competition of the Cold War, until the Ukraine the Crisis, to see Russia as an international partner, the likes of Vladimir Putin had not.
It appears those who share Putin’s Cold War-era mindset are so devoted to degenerative competition with the US that they are willing to sacrifice Russian’s interests with Ukraine and Syria. In Ukraine, Putin’s hostile seizure of Crimea negates the possibility of trust and unimpeded cooperation between Russia and Ukraine. As long as Vladimir Putin rules Russia, the US and much of Europe will, at best, struggle to cooperate with Russia. Russia will be dealt with as needed, but will not be a partner in any sense. As long as the Russian government pursues an antagonistic foreign policy, stable diplomatic and economic ties between Russia and the West will not be possible.
In Syria, Russia’s efforts to artificially prop up the Assad regime and crush all potential Western-back alternatives is undermining the ability to secure Syria. Because Bashar Al-Assad will not be, and cannot be, accepted by rebel factions, Russia’s competing intervention simply undermines the chances of stabilizing Syria. In turn, it actually undermines Russian national security interests by making Russia more of a target for violent extremists from across the Middle East. As an antagonistic response to the US Coalition’s lengthy involvement in the Syria Civil War, Putin may be able to force limited cooperation between the US on the Syrian Civil War, but the ill-will he continues to create by doing so undermines meaningful cooperation with the US, European powers, and Middle Eastern countries.
For the US, China’s antagonistic approach to its foreign policy helps bolster US influence across Asia, which unites the US and its allies in their efforts to assert their interests. It appears Beijing believes the benefits of securing the South China Sea, and its vast resources, for itself sufficiently outweighs the potential risk of a costly conflict with its neighbors. Should a serious armed conflict arise, however, China will not be able to capitalize on its gains, especially if the strain of such a conflict also sparks internal strife. Where China had hoped to both secure South China Sea resources and sustain relations with its pacified neighbors, the reality is that China’s antagonistic approach undermines cooperation and increases the cost of competition.
Clearly, the Ukraine Crisis, the Syrian Civil War, which drives the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Europe, and the South China Sea Crisis are only a sample of the conflicts in the world. Conflicts between the US, Russia, and China are the most serious and obvious threats to the International Community, yet the antagonistic approach to foreign policy adopted by numerous nations, which happen to find themselves in natural competitions, undermines global stability and security, which threatens to derail peace and prosperity. The overly competitive, antagonistic relationships between the US, Russia, and China represent the most pressing and most catastrophic threats, but the greatest threat to global governance is the inability to overcome the tendency to approach competition between nations in a antagonistic manner that sparks devastating conflicts.
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