Editorial – Beyond Ukraine, towards change in the world order? What if behind the tension in Ukraine and Crimea there was something more and larger at stake? What if it were not just one more serious international crisis, but also a moment when some underlying dynamics that were so far only hardly perceptible, or still in the making were crystallized and becoming quite obvious? It is most likely that it is indeed what is happening as underlined, for example, by Ivan Krastev in his article in Foreign Affairs, when he writes:

“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine should not be understood as an opportunistic power grab. Rather, it is an attempt to politically, culturally, and militarily resist the West. Russia resorted to military force because it wanted to signal a game change, not because it had no other options.” Krastev, “Russian Revisionism”, 3 March 2014, Foreign Affairs.

Krastev analyses that Putin promotes a rejection of “modern Western values”, notably Europeans, although more than Europe but indeed the “West” is concerned here. If we may argue about what is meant by Western values, by modernity, and in which way Russia’s values are not as modern and as “Western” – indeed grounded in a long European historical past to which Russia also belong, it is now obvious that Russia supports something different from both the Cold War and post Cold War order.

Secretary of State Kerry also felt a similar challenge when he stated, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,”  (Will Dunham, 2 March 2014, Reuters), thus opening the flank to easy criticism considering the U.S. pedigree of interventions abroad. However, what matters here most are the words that were used, and the contrast put between a world where intervention would be legitimate if it suited a vision imbued with, among others, the preeminence of peace, the quasi outlaw of war, and a shallow understanding of democracy (only elections) and one where intervention would always be illegitimate if a ruler has been lawfully and constitutionally chosen (or if a deal has been lawfully signed – read notably the excellent article by Offiziere.ch “Russia’s Crimea Invasion Follows Decades of Perceived Humiliation“), but where war would not be outlawed anymore. The first one is Kerry’s twenty-first century, the second would be Putin’s nineteenth century vision according to Kerry.

What we are seeing starting being enacted is a struggle over norms that will preside over the world order. It is highly likely it will lead to a very different world as during the fight all norms will evolve and be redefined, whatever the winner and the loser. It is most likely to impact all areas of life, including economy, and the financial and monetary spheres, as these are part of the Washington Consensus, built upon this very order that is challenged. We are thus definitely in the twenty-first century, but a twenty-first century that is being built and yet unknown.

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Featured image: Photo: the Presidential Press and Information Office – Before Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly – 12 December 2013 – C.C. 3.0.

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