Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

Relationships Key to Stability

Louis Delvoie, Op Ed
Kingston Whig Standard, March 11, 2016

Close and friendly relationships among nation states are among the surest guarantors of international peace and stability. When countries share common interests and objectives, and their governments are inclined to work co-operatively in pursuit of them, the international system tends to operate smoothly and effectively. It also helps greatly if the peoples of the countries concerned feel a certain affinity with each other and are prepared and eager to engage in a wide variety of people-to-people contacts. And diplomats relish the opportunity to cement such relationships.

The end of the Cold War saw the fall of numerous barriers to productive relations between states. Most of the eastern European countries of the former Warsaw Pact joined their western European brethren in the European Union (EU) and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Russia drew steadily closer to the United States and its western allies. Iran and Iraq brought their long and bloody war to an end. Israel and Jordan concluded a peace treaty. Civil wars ended in Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia, Nicaragua and El Salvador. And Russia withdrew its forces from Afghanistan.

The end of the Cold War did not herald the end of all contentious relationships by any means. Indians and Pakistanis, Israelis and Palestinians, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, all remained at loggerheads. But the rapprochements among so many countries proved to be a thoroughly notable phenomenon that gave rise to the term "new world order." Those who coined that term were full of hope that friendship and cordiality would come to replace hostility and suspicion in relations among states. They also hoped that diplomacy and international institutions such as the United Nations would be able to play a more active and productive role in reconciling differences.

In the intervening 25 years, most of those hopes have been dashed, and never more so than in the last three or four years. Deteriorating relationships are the order of the day in Europe, Asia and Africa, to the detriment of international co-operation, peace and stability.

The activities of Russia under President Vladimir Putin are particularly notable in this regard. His military intervention in Georgia was but a precursor to several more. His annexation of Crimea and the active involvement of Russian forces in the civil war in eastern Ukraine put paid to the hope that a pan-European security system might one day emerge. On the contrary, it produced a raft of western sanctions against Russia and an intensification of hostile rhetoric between the two sides. Russian military adventures also led the eastern European members of NATO to fear for their security and to demand that the alliance provide more tangible evidence of its commitment to their security. This persuaded NATO to station more forces and conduct more military exercises in eastern Europe close to the borders with Russia. This in turn had the effect of reinforcing Russian paranoia about the hostile intentions of the West. And there is no end in sight to this vicious cycle, which has most recently been complicated by Russia's military intervention in Syria.

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