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The Post-Russian World Order

BRUSSELS – Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the ensuing Crimea crisis is wrongly seen as the start of Cold War II. But, while the fallout from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defiance of international law and public opinion will be very different from that of the Soviet Union’s long campaign to defeat capitalism, the geopolitical ripple effects are certain to be just as far-reaching, if not more so.

Russia is set to sideline itself from the global economy, and by doing so it will usher in a new era in international relations. International sanctions will be only the first consequence. Markets and banks penalize uncertainty, so the Russian economy will progressively be cut off from international trade and investment and consigned to a future of slow or no growth.

That is Russia’s own funeral, of course. The wider consequences will be a shake-up of international politics and of governments’ attempts to address common problems, ranging from global governance to climate change. The result may even be positive, with events in Ukraine unexpectedly opening the way to a significant realignment of fast-emerging countries whose twenty-first-century roles will be decisive.

The first result of the West’s standoff with Russia is that it spells the end of the BRICS. For a decade or more, the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and recently South Africa has been a major feature of world politics, challenging the might and influence of industrialized Europe and America. But, with Russia set to become a pariah, either pushed out of or withdrawing from global markets and multilateral forums, the days of BRICS summits and institutions, such as the group’s embryonic development bank, appear to be numbered.