Extremely high risk of a full-fledged US-Russian war: renowned Russian scholar

In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has just ended can announce a change in the world order, believes Russian specialist Anastasia Likhacheva.

In a conversation with The New Indian in Moscow, the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of HSE University, said that Samarkand can herald a new order that promotes multipolarity.

The famous scholar also believed that Asia would unite against China if it tried to become a unilateral leader.

An edited excerpt from the interaction:

Aarti Tikoo: (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Samarkand. They also attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, which Chinese President Xi Jinping also attended. What do you think is the significance of this meeting in Samarkand when there is a war in Ukraine?

Anastasia Likhacheva: The importance of this meeting is very high. We remember the history of the great conferences of the 20th century, like Yalta, Tehran, etc., where the contours of the new order were discussed.

I think some hints of the coming order are also being discussed now and some narratives about what we understand as multipolarity. Because it is very favorable to all other powers except the United States.

TO: But at the same time, we see that the West has taken a very tough stance against Russia.

AL: Yes, I would say it’s pretty clear now that relations between Russia and the West are in the Hybrid War phase. And the further we go in time, the less hybrid it becomes and the more we see an old style of warfare. And unfortunately, I and my colleagues see that the risks of a major military confrontation between Russia and the West are extremely high.

We cannot imagine a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and the United States, because that would mean the end of the world as we know it. But on the other hand, we see all the steps towards this phase.

TO: So you agree that there will be an escalation of a military confrontation between Russia and the West?

AL: Well, I’d like to see a sign that we’re going another way, but I can’t.

TO: Which means, you say, that the war in Ukraine will continue and become more aggressive?

AL: I would not overlook the possibility that a direct military confrontation between Russia and Western parties could take place outside Ukraine.

Due to recent comments from the US command, they will supply another type of weapons to Ukraine. And the reverse comment from Russian officials that this will mean which side of the conflict the United States is on.

The way these weapons enter Ukraine, via Europe, makes the situation much more dangerous than six months ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet on the sidelines of the SCO summit

TO: Can Russia withstand the pressure of US sanctions? Because everyone says that the Russian economy is affected. Some people predicted that this would set Russia back 30 years economically.

AL: Russia suffered 30 years ago, when the whole collapse of the common economy system was much deeper, we had the country that was disrupted in 16 pieces and so far so on.

My particular opinion, especially regarding sanctions, is that almost any country can support if North Korea can support (economic sanctions). The question is how to balance the strategy of survival with the strategy of development.

What we see is that the situation in the world economy is getting worse. And if we talk about the situation in Europe and the United States in terms of inflation, it’s not easy either. It is therefore not a question of knowing exactly whether Russian GDP fell by 7.6% or 3.4%.

Some sanctions have significant economic effects. There are sanctions with a social impact that could be felt, but not so much economically.

TO: And in this whole scenario, where do you see China and India for that matter? Because starting today, they stand with Russia, even as they balance their relationship with the West.

AL: Russian officials now see India and China as rising powers, poles of economic development and potential economic partners for Russia. This means that many representatives of the Russian elite, the Russian managerial community and Russian companies, have to go through a very hard and deep transformation of their mindset.

I would say that it is very important to remember to go beyond these trade statistics. It is not just the supply of food or energy goods, the supply of energy security, food security and, therefore, social security as well, because of what we are seeing now in Sri Lanka.

But for the Russian elite, transforming their state of mind, seeing the map of the world, is important. It’s very difficult. When we studied geography in school, we made these country maps. And for generations we had the map of the world and it was like a big quarter, especially the map of Europe. We never had a map of Asia.

This is a very deep and deeply rooted asymmetry of world understanding. And now, how China and India behave in this situation is a very important trigger to change this mindset.

TO: And China hasn’t done anything so far, except maybe buy more Russian energy, probably mostly coal, and oil to some extent at a discount. Are there more expectations from China?

AL: We recently did some very interesting research based on statistics and figures, not statements and quotes. And we researched the logistics. How it changes between Russia and China. The cooperation is very intense, but of course it changes if we talk about the so-called global Chinese companies.

The importance of local Chinese companies is quite large for the Russian market. They are interested in cooperation. The Russians are very interested in cooperation. But it takes time to settle into this new infrastructure.

And also talking about Russian and Indian economic cooperation, we have to accept that the old school image of successful international cooperation, we have a nice forum where we have a nice statement, a big concert and a big party, press releases on new memorandums of understanding and agreements for millions and millions of investment intentions it’s over because even if it happens it’s not a good idea to promote it too widely.

So to analyze what is happening, we need to adjust our understanding a bit of how we assess successful economic cooperation under new circumstances.

TO: If China decides right now to invade Taiwan and make it part of it, do you think Russia would come to China’s aid?

AL: Well, I think if China decides to go down this path, it will have to rely on its efforts, just like Russia. In the Ukrainian file, Russia did not ask for help from China. When we saw a series of comments in Western media that China was not providing aid, there was no indication that Russia had asked for it. So I think if China decides to deal with Taiwan by any means in the state, it will rely on any means it controls.

TO: With a weaker America, will we say today that China has taken over as if not the world leader, but at least the undisputed leader of Asia?

A F: Strategically, while the US economy is still strong and very well funded from around the world, this regular trade deficit is well known. So it’s still there. It was there. It’s not the key market.

China is a rising leader. It’s obvious. But I am pretty sure that if China decided to become the unilateral leader of Asia, it would immediately lead to the joint unification of all other Asian states fearing that a single leader would rise. Because no one is interested in changing a leader into another leader.

And we see, of course, growing Chinese activity, especially economic activity in the region. But at the same time we see at least a multiplied attempt by the Russian Air Force and Indian efforts to keep an option of alternative development of the system in the greater Eurasian region, not just in Asia, based on the problems , based on BRICS formats, and based on strengthening Russian-Indian relations.

All this promotes strategic security in the Eurasian region, thanks to the problems we see on the way.

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