Russia Will Miss the World Order Putin Upended

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by Alexander Baunov headlined “Russia Will Miss the World Order Putin Upended”:

Vladimir Putin is said to be challenging the world order, and he seems to be proud to do so. But Russia is hardly the only country dissatisfied with the world order. Take the U.S., supposedly the global hegemon. For more than 60 years, America has had to put up with an ideological enemy just over the water in Cuba. The U.S. is unable to force its own companies to return production to its shores from developing countries. Now it faces humiliation daily. Americans wake up every morning to news of Russian airstrikes against a country they and their allies support. U.S. leaders know from experience that forceful intervention can make things even worse.

In his fight to change the world order, Mr. Putin wasn’t afraid to destroy the existing one. Russia has staked everything on its size and might, banking on the prospect that attempts to exclude it from the world order will lead to that order’s collapse—or at least that the economic costs will force the West to adapt to Russian needs.

“They’ll come crawling back,” Russians say about sanctions and the exodus of Western brands, from Coca-Cola to Boeing. The source of this self-confidence is unclear. None of those companies, or the Western economy as a whole, rely on the Russian market for their success. Russia played no role in the postwar economic miracles of Japan, Spain, South Korea or West Germany. Without a presence in the Russian market the Asian tigers became tigers and Western Europe turned into a continent populated by the middle class. Even China achieved an economic boom, and not by supplying down jackets to the Russian market in the 1990s. There’s hope that the Russian replacement for McDonald’s will be able to reproduce the familiar flavors of the U.S. chain, but no prospect it will become a global company itself.

The world has changed in many ways as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it’s hardly become more accommodating to Moscow’s ambitions. Finland and Sweden are set to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start transporting Russian gas any minute before the war, stands idle. The number of countries lifting visa requirements for Russian nationals had been growing every year; no more. The state-owned media company RT had some success on the global information market; now it is blocked throughout the European Union. Some Western officials had tacitly recognized Crimea’s de facto status as a Russian possession. Lithuania was a reliable transit hub for all goods entering the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad; now it is trying to limit the transit by interpreting EU sanctions as strictly as possible. Even sympathetic China has more leverage to buy Russian oil and gas with huge discounts.

By changing the world order, Russia has discovered that it wasn’t only a victim but a part of it—and even a beneficiary.

Alexander Baunov is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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