The Return of Diplomacy?
How the Shift of Power Dynamics Eastward Impacts the Evolution of the Ukrainian Crisis

The interests of China and other major powers in Asia will be influenced by the new power balance that is emerging as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. As the conflict deepens and power dynamics shift towards the East, the formation of a more equitable multipolar system will accelerate, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.

Many view military conflicts as an anomaly in the interaction between nations. However, historical evidence indicates otherwise, as conflict has long been the predominant mode of interaction. After the Second World War, humanity experienced a period of relative calm supported by nuclear deterrence. This period, combined with the sense of triumph after the Cold War, led Western leaders to harbour unrealistic expectations of the future. They believed the resources of their alliance would be sufficient to dominate the world stage. However, as we can see today, this unipolar system is crumbling, and a multipolar world is emerging, with various actors vying for power. The United States, while maintaining the lead, is simultaneously exerting pressure on Russia, China, Iran, India, and Turkey among others to protect its interests. This approach is creating tension and instability in the international order.

Most conflicts are resolved through a process of negotiation. As the international landscape continues to evolve, there is an opportunity to redefine existing bilateral and multilateral relations. The energy and expertise of a new generation of diplomats and professionals in international affairs can be instrumental in this process, as we navigate a world undergoing both the dismantling of old structures and the creation of new ones. This is a time marked by increased uncertainty and tension, but it is also an opportune moment for international relations and diplomacy to flourish.

What is happening is not a single process — the world is returning to a cycle in which competition and conflict have been the dominant mode of interaction between nations.

This may be frustrating and stressful for younger generations, as it contrasts with the comparatively predictable and stable way of life which characterised previous decades. However, it is important to view this situation from a different perspective. This is not the first time that we have experienced cycles of increased rivalry, and we are currently witnessing its less intense phase. To date, it remains a manageable confrontation within the existing international system, rather than an apocalyptic-scale conflict. The world has not split into separate entities, and many countries share common interests. Progressive development and economic growth continue, with nations striving for prosperity.

Warfare in a New Epoch: The Return of Big Armies
Vasily Kashin, Andrey Sushentsov
The high-intensity warfare in Ukraine represents the largest military conflict in terms of forces involved, casualties, and duration since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. But it is only the scale of the fighting that warrants comparison. Politically, the current events are unique in recent history.


A process of reconfiguration is underway globally, with several power centres emerging that seek to gain greater autonomy, space, and protection for their interests. While this process has some negative aspects, such as increasing uncertainty and tension, it can also be seen as an opportunity for development.

Some analysts, including experts from Russia, have identified positive aspects of this process, highlighting new possibilities for achieving greater equilibrium in international relations and establishing clear rules of engagement.

Comparing the current state of relations between Russia and the United States with the Cold War is not entirely appropriate, although some scholars have used the term “New Cold War” or “Second Cold War” to describe the current situation. The current state of competition is more complex, and occurs in a broader range of fields. There are a greater number of actors, diverse coalitions, and the level of ideological commitment varies. Whereas in the past, two ideological blocs were in opposition, only the Western camp currently exhibits surface-level ideological alignment.

Russia adheres to the principles of rationality and natural law in international relations. These principles encompass respect for the sovereignty, equality, and mutual interest of all parties, as well as refraining from interference in the internal affairs of other countries. These principles apply universally and are not contingent on any particular ideology.

The pragmatic approach to international affairs that has been pursued by Russia has its roots in ancient Greek history, as exemplified by the work of the historian Thucydides.

In addition to the increasing number of parties involved, the complexity of the technical aspects of this conflict has also increased. In addition to its traditional military dimension, the rivalry is also manifested through the use of economic sanctions, trade restrictions, and information warfare.

It is worth noting that there has been a significant development during this period that was not observed during the Cold War— the deep economic interdependence between various regions of the world has grown. This phenomenon may seem paradoxical; we continue to engage in trade with our adversaries, while they rely on the products we supply, even through intermediaries. Although our opponents often portray this as a matter of principle, they are sometimes willing to make exceptions to their policies in order to avoid economic damage to their own economies.

There is a clear global trend in the redistribution of power, which is evident to all. The centre of gravity of global power is shifting from Western countries to the East and Pacific region.

This shift is characterised by the emergence of major economic, political, and eventually military centres in Asia, a development that has not occurred in centuries.

After World War II, the victors determined the power structure, and none of the major powers at that time claimed a special role in Asia. However, the emergence of China as a significant player on the global stage has brought increased attention to its proposals for resolving the Ukraine crisis.

The United States should acknowledge that, by portraying the conflict with Russia over Ukraine as a stark, Manichaean struggle between “good and evil”, and by forcing other countries to take sides, it has become a central player in this conflict. Washington is finding it difficult to accept the existence of numerous independent, strategically sovereign nations with interests during this crisis that diverge from those of the United States and Russia.

The interests of China and other major powers in Asia will be influenced by the new power balance that is emerging as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. As the conflict deepens and power dynamics shift towards the east, the formation of a more equitable multipolar system accelerates.

Modern Diplomacy
The World in Search of a New Balance of Power
Andrey Sushentsov
The impossibility of achieving a strategic victory over the enemy through military means, the continuing interconnectedness of the world, the constant military conflict as one of the tools of grand strategy introduces us to the era of constant indirect war, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.