The Global South and Ukraine

av G. K. N. Mensah-Yawson, oberst i Ghana.

The demise of the Soviet Union and the resulting end of the Cold War was expected to create an ‘End of History’ scenario that would trigger a linear evolution of the international system. The proxy confrontations between the major actors currently ongoing in the East of Europe and the Middle East, and the potential for a new front in East Asia expose the extent to which rising powers have developed the capacity to challenge the institutions established by the dominant power.  In all these ensuing confrontations, the position of the Global South though non-determinant adds legitimacy to the actions of the influential power blocks. The write-up seeks to briefly summarize the conditions which shapes the position of the Global South in the ensuing interplay of global power competition using the Russian-Ukrainian War as the theatre of focus.

The Global South represents a conglomerate of least developed and developing states that are relatively less influential in the scheme of global decisionmaking. These however possess the natural resource base that feeds the superpowers and as such the collective might to influence global trends. The concept of a Global South is a constructed label defined from a political, economic, or other perspective based on the observer’s interest. The effect of the Russian-Ukrainian war has been felt in the Global South at varying extent which has shaped the reaction of the individual actors and its collective position. While the strategically placed actors have taken advantage to increase their gains, other have suffered economic and social reversals. Consequently, despite the reaction of the AU (African Union) as a unified body, the actual position is that of an eclectic/multi-dimensional nature, shaped by diverging interests. This in effect reinforces their nonaligned credentials. For instance, the AU made a collective statement on its willingness to mediate towards a peaceful resolution because of the effect the war was having on the economic security of the continent.  However, the primary position of the African Union to sue for peaceful resolution out of an economic interest represented a one out of the 2 approaches of the bloc. This main approach could be likened to strategic nonalignment while the second approach is reflective of those so-called Rogue states openly on the side of Russia. The divergence of positions also reflects the historical relations that the actors in the AU have had with the powers locked up in the competition. While some governments favour pro-western institutions, other refer to the support they received from the Soviets while challenging colonialism.  Additionally, other contemporary factors seem to be shifting perceptions in the global south towards the direction of Russia. Such include the seeming lack of consistency in the western position on suspected grave breaches elsewhere in pursuit of the core western interest. As the saying goes, ‘the diversity of the African continent is what defines its uniqueness as one’. The ultimate strategic strength of of Africa lies in its diversity of opinion and the ability to maintain strategy ambiguity (in line with its non-aligned credentials) on issues which have the potential to establish a ‘Diffuse Power International System’.