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Ukrainian Institute for the Future: International Politics and Foreign Policy of Ukraine

06 May, 2024
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Ukrainian Institute for the Future: International Politics and Foreign Policy of Ukraine

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2024 - a point of determination. UIF expert forecast

 

1.1 MAIN PLOTS OF THE 'INTERSYSTEM TRANSITION' OF THE WORLD

The international political situation in 2024 is evolving according to the logic of transitioning from the "American" system of international relations (1945/1991) to a "multipolar" system, in which no single state or even group of states will dominate. At the heart of such a world order will be dynamic competitive interaction, which will influence the development of new international rules of the game (norms, regulations, provisions of international law), global institutions, and the balance of power. In 2024, the world will still be in a state of "intersystem transition," characterized by several plots:

"COLD DETENTE" BETWEEN CHINA AND THE USA

As long as Joe Biden remains president of the USA, the confrontation between the USA and China will be limited, controlled, and will not exceed the "red lines" defined by Beijing and Washington: recognition of Taiwan's independence, armed support for Russia, support for armed groups in border regions, creation of military-political alliances in Asia, etc.

FORMATION OF RUSSIA'S CONTAINMENT ARCHITECTURE

The war in Ukraine and its conclusion will influence the eventual shape of the new security architecture in Eurasia. Relations between EU/NATO countries and Russia are unlikely to normalize, and Moscow will increasingly move away from the "Western vector" towards a more independent self-perception on the international stage, while Europe will rebuild on the idea of long-term containment of Russia.

DEEPENING DIVISION BETWEEN "THE WEST" AND "THE REST"

Intensification of the struggle for political, moral, and economic leadership between supporters of a globalist order with universal rules and values for all, and supporters of a narrower sovereign approach to international relations, the right to self-determination on their own cultural-ideological and moral-ethical basis.

REGIONAL MULTIPOLARITY

Dynamic competition between regional powers for leadership in their region, when traditional global players can no longer / do not want to take responsibility for regional processes.

CLUSTERIZATION OF THE WORLD ECONOMY

The growing desire of individual states and groups of states to create autonomous separate economic and financial blocs that will not be critically dependent on Western financial institutions.

TRANSITION TO A NEW TECHNOLOGICAL ORDER

Intensification of the struggle for a new resource base and new technologies between countries that have ambitions to transition to a new technological order in the near future.

 

1.2 PERCEPTION OF GLOBAL TRANSFORMATIONS AT THE REGIONAL LEVELS

At the regional level, these global transformations will be perceived differently, eliciting various reactions from local governments depending on:

  • their level of awareness of the international situation;
  • available resources at hand;
  • political ambitions;
  • willingness for change and transformation;
  • understanding of their own role in global processes.

The post-Soviet region in the coming years will gradually transition to a post-Russian space. Russia's traditional role in the former Soviet territories has long been lost, and its invasion of Ukraine has definitively turned this page. Many countries in the region, which previously oriented towards Moscow, were dependent on it, or perceived Russia as a force to reckon with, began to distance themselves from the Kremlin in a desire to diversify their foreign policy. Conditions for this were created even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the trade and economic dimension, Russia has been losing competition to China and other countries since the 2010s. Political power transitions have taken place in most former Soviet countries: old Soviet elites, tied to agreements with Moscow, have been replaced by post-Soviet younger generations, which do not necessarily have similar emotional and personal ties to Russia. Russia's weakening has opened up opportunities for other players to penetrate the region: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, India, South Korea, the EU, Turkey, and others.

In this context, Russia will become just one of the regional powers, but will not have exclusive influence opportunities on other countries of the former Soviet Union, and will be forced to build relations with them not as with former colonies, but as with equal partners.

In EU countries, European elections will take place in 2024. The war in Ukraine has put Europe in a serious dilemma: to develop the Common European Defense Policy and rearm for years ahead at the expense of abandoning the comfortable standard of living they are accustomed to in the welfare state model, or to negotiate with the aggressor to buy time and continue developing according to the usual model. Before the war began in 2014, and even after that, some European political elites viewed Russia as their strategic partner in security matters on NATO's eastern flank, as well as the largest supplier of cheap energy resources that were supposed to ensure a relatively painless and comfortable "green transition" in Europe. Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine put an end to these plans and led to a reassessment of Russian policy in EU and NATO countries. Despite the fact that most Europeans no longer perceive the idea of a strategic partnership with Moscow, it cannot be claimed that they have completely and permanently abandoned the idea of stabilizing their relations with the Kremlin.

The main line of discussion today boils down to defining the "red lines" in dialogue with Russia. Some advocate for a complete cessation of contacts with Moscow until it ceases aggression against Ukraine, some believe that Europe should balance between dialogue and competition, while others advocate for a gradual restoration of ties with Russia, especially if there is a change in political leadership there. At the same time, representatives of all three groups equally condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, considering it a mistake by the Kremlin and demanding an end to the aggression. The difference lies only in their perception of Ukraine's victory and pragmatism regarding negotiations with Russia in the future.

The elections taking place in the EU may directly influence which of these groups will dominate in further discussions regarding the war in Ukraine. They will also impact the speed and depth of our further integration into the EU. Against the backdrop of farmer protests in several European countries, EU leaders are reluctant to raise the issue of Ukraine's accession to the EU, as it threatens the interests of European entrepreneurs, not only in the agricultural sector. Therefore, it can be predicted that negotiations on our Eurointegration will be postponed at least until after the EU elections, and perhaps even after that. In any case, Ukraine's accession to the EU is most likely to be directly tied to structural reforms that the EU must undergo to be able to "digest" such a large country like ours. Farmer protests only show one aspect of this problem. In this context, Ukraine is unlikely to achieve significant progress in Eurointegration by the end of this year.

Another level of discussions in the EU concerns deep reforms of the European Union and perceptions of Europe's role in the new security architecture. Two groups dominate these discussions. The first, often represented by France, advocates for strengthening the EU's subjectivity on the international stage, for the "autonomy" of Europe in foreign and security policy, and reducing its dependence on the USA. The second group considers such talks premature and is not ready to give up the "American security umbrella", including distrusting the major powers of "old Europe". The result of these debates also concerns Ukraine as a future EU member, as it will determine the balance of power between the USA and Europe on the continent and the future perception of the new security architecture. In 2024, these discussions are unlikely to conclude, but shifts can be expected in EU attempts to institutionalize autonomous defense policy, for example, through the creation of new permanent structures or the appointment of special representatives on these issues.

The Middle East remains in a fairly complex political configuration in 2024. Similar to how the post-Soviet space gradually transforms into a post-Russian one, the Middle East is gradually transitioning into a "post-American" regional order. It is characterized by the loss of unconditional US initiative in the region, the dilution of their exclusive influence by other players, weakening local perceptions of American power, and increasing competition among regional countries seeking to fill the vacuum of influence after the USA. Contenders for regional leadership include Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

One of the central themes of regional transformations in the Middle East will be the escalation of Saudi-Emirati competition and conflicts between the USA and Iran. They will determine what balance will be formed in the region and whether the Middle East will be stabilized in the coming years. In 2024, the Gaza war is expected to end with the potential for the conflict to spread to other territories, including Lebanon, Iraq, or Jordan. It is unlikely that this year will lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue; rather, it is likely to be frozen again. However, peaceful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority will be resumed. Nevertheless, this will not lead to a reduction of tension between Israel and Iran, and their proxy war will continue.

Africa becomes the epicenter of confrontation between the West and non-Western powers. The African continent has played the role of Europe's resource base for many decades, coveted by China, Russia, Turkey, and many other countries aiming to expand their sphere of interests and strengthen their positions in the world.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia has intensified its activities in Africa and is expanding its presence in the Sahel-Saharan region, betting on friendly military regimes with an anti-Western orientation. The USA and European allies are trying to rethink their African policy to curb the expansion of Russia and China by building more equal relations with African countries and advocating for greater representation for Africa at the international level, including in the UN Security Council. This strengthens the trend towards "African autonomization" as a result of fierce competition for political voice, logistics, and resources, where several African states will strive to take leadership on the continent by "selling" their partnership to key major players.

South and Southeast Asia remain the focus of attention for both the USA and China and are the main arena for the future conflict between the two countries. Both Washington and Beijing have managed to strengthen their presence and influence in the region over the past 5-7 years, including due to the events in Ukraine. China maintains its leadership position in Central Asia and enhances cooperation with friendly political regimes in neighboring countries. The USA has expanded cooperation to counterbalance China in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand, and India, seeking to form a long-term coalition against Beijing. It is in Asia that the USA will seek to implement the idea of a "global NATO" involving Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and India to contain China in the coming decades. Meanwhile, China will respond by drawing closer to countries involved in its global "Belt and Road Initiative," especially Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. It is unlikely that in 2024, US-China rivalry will escalate to armed confrontation. Before the US presidential elections in November, both sides will maintain a cautious "thaw" regime established by the Biden administration. However, after the elections, Washington will shift its focus from Europe to Asia, especially if the Trump administration returns to power.

Latin American countries remain on the periphery of the international system and are unlikely to influence global processes in 2024. The position of most countries on the continent regarding Ukraine will not change, and most regional states will focus on internal issues. The division of Latin American societies into left and right remains a central source of social tension and will lead to new political crises and conflicts similar to situations in Peru and Ecuador.

 

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1.3 INTERNATIONAL POSITION OF UKRAINE

In 2024, Ukraine will experience a period of resource war with Russia. Our main task will be to preserve the partnerships established over the past two years, reduce critical dependence on foreign aid at least in some sectors, and create favorable frameworks for future negotiations with Russia. It is unlikely that without significant problems on the battlefield or in the rear, Ukraine will be forced to negotiate with Russia this year. Neither society nor the government is prepared for such a dialogue at the moment, and there is no basis for it. President Zelensky's "peace formula" will be Ukraine's flagship diplomatic project this year, based on which we will seek to mobilize as much diplomatic support as possible and then impose it on Russia with a view to future negotiations.

Meetings on the "peace formula" are unlikely to expand our coalition of partners in 2024. Non-Western countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia are unlikely to want to fully support our political position and join anti-Russian sanctions. This means that this year we will act together with the same predominantly Western countries that have supported us since 2022. Instead of "globalizing" our position, Ukraine will have to focus on maintaining the existing attention and resources, especially on the European-American front.

Overall, our international positions remain modest and intermediate. Unlike 2022, when our diplomatic potential expanded to colossal proportions due to the attention of the global community and media and the mobilization of Western partners, the situation changed in 2024. There will no longer be such attention to us due to fatigue from the topic of the war in Ukraine and the emergence of new hotspots, such as the war in Israel in Gaza. Many states do not believe in the absolute victory of either Ukraine or Russia and believe that both sides are in a deadlock. There is a demand for governments to refocus on domestic issues, which threatens to reduce external assistance to Ukraine, as is happening now in the US and some EU countries. Elections in the EU and the US may accelerate this process. Therefore, in 2024, Ukraine will operate in conditions of slow reduction of external assistance, fixing current levels of assistance, and increasingly complex communication with EU and NATO countries regarding new formats of support.

The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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