New world order: China and Turkey want to mediate Ukraine crisis

This symbolizes a shift in world power away from US hegemony to a world that is multipolar and where a rising China may soon mediate conflicts in Europe.

 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi looks on during the bilateral meeting with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 9, 2022.  (photo credit: DINUKA LIYANAWATTE/REUTERS)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi looks on during the bilateral meeting with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 9, 2022.
(photo credit: DINUKA LIYANAWATTE/REUTERS)

China, Turkey and France are trying to play a role mediating the Ukraine crisis.

While France’s role is not unique historically, it has partnered with Russia since the 19th century and generally views US policy with skepticism. But the rising role of Turkey and China as potential mediators is historic.

This symbolizes a shift in world power away from US hegemony and the “new world order” promised by US president George H.W. Bush to a world that is multipolar and where a rising China may soon mediate conflicts in Europe.

What we know so far is that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday highlighted the urgent need for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, according to Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run news agency.

“We hope that a solution can be found through dialogue and consultation that will really guarantee security and stability in Europe,” he said in his video speech to the Munich Security Conference, Anadolu reported. “China’s chief diplomat added the Minsk agreement could be the basis for resolving the crisis diplomatically.”

 U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (credit: Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (credit: Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS)

Chinese media outlets are not pushing this story, which means China may be concerned that if this initiative doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t want it to look like it failed. So China is acting behind the scenes and has not revealed what its actual agenda in Ukraine might be. China certainly would prefer to see a US setback.

The EU, NATO and others are indicating they see a Russian attempt to rewrite the rules of world order. In short, this means Russia could use force to redraw borders. Most borders in the world today are the result of European colonialism, and while European powers felt they could draw borders as they saw fit in places like the Middle East or South Asia, these same Europeans generally tell the indigenous people they are not allowed to redraw borders.

Since 1945 or 1960, this has been the case. Most of the world’s conflicts are a result of badly drawn borders that European colonial powers left behind. Much genocide has resulted because people were jammed together into countries and told they had to live together, and no group could secede or change their status since 1945. This is what is called “world order.”

Since the 1990s, US hegemony in the wake of the Cold War has attempted to solve some of these conflicts under a concept of global international liberal world order, including humanitarian interventions. This largely failed, and US global retreat is one consequence of this state of affairs.

“We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment,” George H.W Bush said in September 1990.

“The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective, a new world order, can emerge: a new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.”

He laid out some concepts of this world order.

“Today, that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we’ve known,” he said. “A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle.”

Bush said this world would have shared responsibility for freedom and justice.

“A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak,” he said. “This is the vision that I shared with President [Mikhail] Gorbachev in Helsinki. He and other leaders from Europe, the Gulf, and around the world understand that how we manage this crisis today could shape the future for generations to come.”

He then said the crisis in the Gulf tested this new world.

“The test we face is great, and so are the stakes,” he said. “This is the first assault on the new world that we seek, the first test of our mettle. Had we not responded to this first provocation with clarity of purpose, if we do not continue to demonstrate our determination, it would be a signal to actual and potential despots around the world.”

TODAY, OTHER countries are seeking to step into the vacuum left by the US as that world order appears to collapse.

We can see how this unfolds by watching how Turkey invaded and ethnically cleansed part of Syria in 2018 and 2019. In addition, China asserted itself in Hong Kong, cracking down on dissent, and China has been using more muscle to play a role on the South China Sea islands. Meanwhile, Iran has sent arms and support to groups wreaking havoc in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

While China says it supports dialogue to end the Ukraine crisis, Turkey also wants to mediate.

According to Turkish public broadcaster TRT World, “Turkey’s presidential spokesman [Ibrahim Kalin] has said the Turkish president continues his efforts to bring together the leaders of Russia and Ukraine amid rising tension along their borders.”

Kalin said “our president’s offer to bring the leaders of Russia and Ukraine together is actually the most important and concrete proposal to overcome this crisis,” TRT reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “also discussed this issue with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, during a recent visit to the capital Kyiv, as well as in his phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and they are expected to have another call soon, said Kalin,” TRT reported.

Turkey is also preparing to host Putin. According to Kalin, “dialogue and diplomacy should be prioritized, tensions should be reduced, and mutual steps should be taken to reduce tensions.”

This is important. Turkey has sold Ukraine drones, and Ankara is buying the S-400 air-defense system from Russia. This shows Turkey is deeply involved in the situation. Russia and Turkey also meet with Iran as part of the Astana process to discuss Syria. Turkey also has reached out to the UAE and Israel recently. It wants to end several years of tensions that it imposed and stoked and try dialogue again, it claims.

Together, the messaging by Turkey and China represents a major shift from the words being used in Europe. The UK is warning of shock waves if there is an invasion in Ukraine. France warns of sanctions. The US warns of “unprecedented” sanctions. Germany and France have urged citizens to leave Ukraine.

The US seems to have new warnings of war every day. Last week, US media outlets said Russia was 70% ready for war, and some said 80% or more. The US says intelligence reports show Putin has decided to go to war. On February 12, the US said Russia could invade at any time. NATO believes a “full-scale” attack has been prepared against Ukraine. Russia even has lists of people it intends to round up after the invasion, US media reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron is making last-ditch efforts to avert a large-scale conflict in Ukraine, a French presidential administration official told reporters after his talks with Zelensky, according to Russian media outlets.

“The president of the republic is making his last efforts to prevent a major conflict in Ukraine,” the official was quoted as saying by Russian News Agency TASS. “He is ready for new steps for the sake of stability and peace and does not rule out new missions.”

France has long been concerned about US and British policies in the world. For instance, France was angered by a US deal with Australia that torpedoed a French submarine deal. France was able to get back at the US through a deal for jets with the UAE.

France, in general, was nonplussed by NATO throwing its weight around in the Balkans in the 1990s and was more sympathetic to Serbia at the time. That conflict, which saw the US and allies push Serbs out of Kosovo, was also a defining moment for Putin. He saw it as humiliating for Russia and its Serbian friends.

Now, two decades later, things have changed, and it is Putin who is prepared to tell the West what he wants. China, Turkey and France are using this opportunity to show they can carve out a new world order – one that upends several decades of US global hegemony.