Towards a Decoupled Peace

President Zelensky made an impassioned plea to the United States in his address to the US Congress on March 16th- “To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace”.[1]  The same day China’s Ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, authored an Op Ed in the Washington Post titled “Where we stand in the Ukraine” in which he insisted that China did not have prior knowledge of the invasion of the Ukraine, that Taiwan is not the same as the Ukraine (which it views as a sovereign a state, while Taiwan is considered to be an inseparable part of China), that China remains interested in promoting a cease fire and providing protection to civilians, and that China is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace.[2]  He states that China supports regional and global stability. Qin Gang defines a type of regional peace that is based on security, and ironically correlates with the conception of peace as linked to security in the German Constitution, Article 24.2, which itself is increasing its defense budget significantly[3]: “The long-term peace and stability of Europe relies on the principle of indivisible security.” This signals a recognition of the relevance of regions or “neighborhoods” in which stability or peace is dependent on security.

In 2021, the US National Intelligence Council published a report on Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World that offered five scenarios for what they estimated the geopolitical context would look like by 2040.[4]  Scenario 4 is called Separate Silos, the summary explains:

“In 2040, the world is fragmented into several economic and security blocs of varying size and strength, centered on the United States, China, the European Union (EU), Russia, and a few regional powers, and focused on self-sufficiency, resiliency, and defense. Information flows within separate cyber-sovereign enclaves, supply chains are reoriented, and international trade is disrupted. Vulnerable developing countries are caught in the middle with some on the verge of becoming failed states. Global problems, notably climate change, are spottily addressed, if at all … By the early 2030s, cascading global challenges from decades of job losses in some countries in part because of globalization, heated trade disputes, and health and terrorist threats crossing borders prompted states to raise barriers and impose trade restrictions to conserve resources, protect citizens, and preserve domestic industries. Many economists thought that economic decoupling or separation could not really happen because of the extensive interdependence of supply chains, economies, and technology, but security concerns and governance disputes helped drive countries to do the unthinkable, despite the extraordinary costs.”[5]

This scenario is indicative of increased regionalism characterized by a decoupling of the networks that Mark Leonard described as essential elements of The Age of UnPeace information, trade, etc. that led to the persistent state of competition and conflict before the war in the Ukraine.  In short, this is a movement towards a “Decoupled Peace” in which the connections that increased conflict through competition are deliberately severed. Russia has been isolated by disinvestment and sanctions and it left the Council of Europe after being suspended. The European Union seeks to decouple its energy dependence on Russia by a contradictory bifurcated resort to alternative sources of oil and coal, even from governments subject to sanctions previously, and increase investment in renewable energy and nuclear energy.[6]  Nevertheless, the international community appears unable to prevent the global hunger crisis that will devastate the African continent due to the blocking of wheat, corn, barley, and fertilizer from Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine.[7] The path from war to Decoupled Peace is undeniably tragic.


[1] Text of Ukrainian President Zelensky’s address to Congress – The Washington Post

[2] Opinion | Chinese ambassador Qin Gang: Where China stands on Ukraine – The Washington Post

[4] GlobalTrends_2040.pdf (dni.gov)

[5] P. 116

[6] Renewable energy targets (europa.eu) Europe wants more renewables to increase its energy security | EURACTIV PR European Commission declares nuclear and gas to be green | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.02.2022  Are Iran and Venezuela viable alternatives to Russian gas? — Quartz (qz.com)

[7]https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/20/world/americas/ukraine-war-global-food-crisis.html  

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