Editor’s note: WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Richard Gowan, who will be taking a leave of absence until June.
As has become increasingly evident to observers of global politics over the past several years, we live in a Gramscian moment of systemic crisis, where in the interregnum between an old order on its deathbed and a new one not yet born, “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The latest of these symptoms is on display in Ukraine, where Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea highlights the waning power of the post-Cold War liberal order, even as consensus over a rules-based global order to replace it remains elusive.
It would take a generous reading of the past decade to suggest that war had disappeared as a means of resolving political differences between states. Nevertheless, since the First Gulf War, the idea of armed territorial conquest had seemed increasingly anachronistic. And if Kosovo and the Iraq invasion revealed the degree to which America’s preponderance of power made the nonrecourse to force little more than a gentlemen’s agreement, it was one that nonetheless seemed more binding on lesser powers. The Russia-Georgia War was a more ominous foreshadowing of Moscow’s willingness to intervene in the post-Soviet space to regain leverage it had lost in its decade in the wilderness. But Georgia’s role in the disputed run-up to the hostilities, the quick containment of the conflict and the fact that Russia did not legally annex the separatist provinces allowed many to continue to indulge in the reassuring conviction that economic interconnectedness had made the prospect of war among the great powers unthinkable.