the impact of the ukraine war on the balance of global power

31 January 2023

On January 31, it will have been almost a year since the Russio-Ukrainian war started. This conflict is an allegory of the collapse of international relations theories and the failure of the international community to maintain global peace and security.  

Kemet Boutros-Ghali Foundation for Peace and Knowledge organized a symposium on the effects of the war in Ukraine on the balance of global and regional powers.

Mr. Mamdouh Abbas, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, stressed the need to understand the political implications for world and regional powers to understand what is happening worldwide. Abbas pointed out that this war has sparked many significant economic and political crises among major nations, including US-China relations and the European Union's becoming divided, not to mention the impact on regional powers in the Arab region and the Palestinian cause.

Dr. Abdel-Moneim Saeed, Senator and Chairman of Al-Masri Al-Youm, pointed out that the Ukrainian war changed two theories in international relations: the first theory posits that a balance of power through nuclear deterrence prevents wars. The second theory is that any war inevitably harms all parties. At the beginning of the war, he added, it appeared that Russia had the upper hand. However, after the Ukrainian counter-attack, talk began about the role of Western intelligence powers in this crisis and the decline of Russian victories. There is undoubtedly a case of mutual attrition between the parties involved in this war, taking into account China's emergence as a superpower in this scene without firing a single bullet.

Dr. Nevine Mossaad, a professor of political science at Cairo University, emphasized that this war deepened the fierce rivalry between Turkey and Iran. According to Dr. Mossaad, Turkey played an intensive diplomatic role in resolving the crisis and released wheat exports, especially for countries that depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat. Turkey has also approached Russia to reach an agreement regarding Syria. Iran's position was more inclined towards Russia, especially with its drone deal with Moscow. Thus, as Dr. Mossaad pointed out, the two states strengthened their role on the international and regional scene, especially with the condemnation of the invasion. Their rejection of Western sanctions allowed them to benefit from the possibility of modifying power balances.

Dr. Mostafa El-Feki, a writer and political thinker, noted that the Russio-Ukrainian had revealed the respective positions of international powers. He emphasized that there were no dividing lines between global and regional authorities in this crisis, which he likened to the pre-First World War atmosphere where the world was suffering from uncertainty and anticipation, which left most countries unable to take boundary positions in the conflict. Dr. El-Feki points out that this war has significantly impacted the Arab region, where international attention to the Palestinian issue has declined and has led to confusion in Russia-Israel relations. In contrast, the energy crisis resulting from this war has led to dramatic changes in the world's energy-related financial system. At the same time, Israel has used this war to strike Palestinians harshly and to take advantage of its Washington-aligned position in this conflict for Kyiv's benefit.

Dr. Ahmed Youssef, a professor of political science at Cairo University, focused on the status of the Palestinian cause and its relation with the Ukrainian war, saying that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was retreating on the international agenda before the outbreak of the war, especially as attempts to resolve differences between the Palestinian factions intensified.

Ambassador Mohamed Idris, former Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations, highlighted the African States' vulnerability to this war despite their lack of involvement. These states have tried to stand neutral in this crisis but will not be able to do so for long as the conflict continues.

Ambassador Idris pointed out that this war has exacerbated the crises the African States experienced, particularly regarding the inflationary effects of food prices, which pushed some 50 million Africans into extreme poverty.

Ambassador Idris stressed that African countries have already entered a downturn in production due to increased production costs, debt crisis, and the interest in borrowing from international institutions, while their countries suffer from declining international grants. He also pointed out that these states' inability to meet their debt repayment had severely pressured their political decisions.

For his part, Dr. Ali El Din Hilal, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University and former Minister of Sport and Youth, raised many questions to which we should look for answers. For example, if Russia does not emerge from this war with a decisive victory, as well as Ukraine and its allies, America and Europe, what will be the world's balance of power in this case? What will the situation look like in countries such as Germany and Japan that have regained their right to arms?

Mr. Amre Moussa, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, stressed that the current world order, primarily through the specialized agencies of the United Nations, was still thriving and that the international system's failure did not go beyond the question of maintaining international peace and security. This responsibility pertains to the Security Council, which will require extensive future modification and discussion. As for Arab national security, Moussa pointed out that this concept has become more complex and constructive to regional conglomerates. What matters to the Gulf States may not matter to the fertile crescent or North African countries, so this needs to be addressed in more detail in other meetings.

But Mr. Moussa also pointed to the importance of the Non-Aligned Movement's return, but in a new shape; this time, their leader might be Silva de Lula, President of Brazil.

Ambassador Raouf Saad pointed out that this war is an integral part of America's struggle against China and an attempt to weaken Russia as a strategic ally of Beijing.

Ambassador Maged Abdel Fattah, a former Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations, recalled that what was happening had brought to mind the urgent need for the peace agenda that Dr. Boutros-Ghali had presented several decades ago while serving as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ambassador Abdel Fattah declared that the international organization is now seeking to restore this agenda and is interested in listening to all parties in preparing for the future summit in 2024 to reform the international system.