NEW DELHI – The world, it seems, is in the grip of geopolitical anomie. No leader, group of leaders, or institution commands sufficient authority to restore any semblance of international order and peace. For many, this global rudderlessness recalls Europe’s sleepwalk into catastrophe 100 years ago.
There are certainly some uncanny similarities between current events and that fateful time. The downing in eastern Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 echoed the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in its recklessness, not to mention the failure of governments and citizens to recognize that diplomatic rivalry can quickly give way to violence.
Indeed, even after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incitement of secessionist movements in eastern Ukraine, airlines did not consider it necessary to reroute flights. This reflected the international community’s response – or lack thereof – to the menacing developments. With Russian forces now directly participating in the unrest in eastern Ukraine, the match lit by President Vladimir Putin could spark a conflagration.
Shortly before the Soviet Union’s dissolution was complete, I asked Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as National Security Adviser under US President Jimmy Carter, what the world should expect from a post-Soviet Russia. He replied that the Soviet Union’s dissolution would bring about a new era of global peace, if – and only if – Russia remained within its geographical boundaries.