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Sanctions on Russia Pit the West Against the Rest of the World
A rally supporting the Ukrainian people. (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A rally supporting the Ukrainian people. (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Sanctions on Russia Pit the West Against the Rest of the World

Walter Russell Mead

As the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war ricochet through global politics, the West has never been more closely aligned. It has also rarely been more alone. Allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization plus Australia and Japan are united in revulsion against Vladimir Putin’s war and are cooperating with the most sweeping sanctions since World War II. The rest of the world, not so much.

In a development that suggests trouble ahead, China’s basic approach—not endorsing Moscow’s aggression but resisting Western efforts to punish Russia—has garnered global support. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the war on NATO. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, refused to condemn Russia. India and Vietnam, essential partners for any American strategy in the Indo-Pacific, are closer to China than the U.S. in their approach to the war.

Western arm-twisting and the powerful effect of bank sanctions ensure a certain degree of sanctions compliance and support for symbolic U.N. resolutions condemning Russian aggression. But the lack of non-Western enthusiasm for America’s approach to Mr. Putin’s war is a phenomenon that U.S. policy makers ignore at their peril. Just as Western policy makers, lost in fantasies about building a “posthistorical world,” failed to grasp the growing threat of great-power competition, they have failed to note the development of a gap between the West and the rest of the world that threatens to hand the revisionist powers major opportunities in coming years. The Biden administration appears not to understand the gap between Washington and what used to be called the Third World, the degree to which its own policies contribute to the divide, or the opportunities this gap creates for China.

Opposition to Russia looked like a global slam dunk to many in the West. World opinion would so robustly oppose Moscow’s attack that countries like China would pay a high political price for failing to jump onto the anti-Russia bandwagon.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

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