Rising Tensions In Ukraine, Asia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took to the editorial pages of The Guardian to assert that the West, not Russia, which is destabilizing Ukraine. Lavrov asserts that “Russia has done more than any other country to support the independent Ukrainian state,” while Europe and the US “have been trying to compel Ukraine to make a painful choice between east and west, further aggravating internal differences.”

He goes on to maintain that “assertions that Russia has undermined efforts to strengthen partnerships on the European continent do not correspond to the facts. On the contrary, our country has steadily promoted a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

No matter who is responsible, the unrest in Ukraine is causing instability in world crude oil prices, particularly after Russia warned a “civil war” would result if Ukraine seeks to regain control from pro-Russian forces.

Tensions are also rising in Asia, where China has called on the US to step in to keep Japan “within bounds.” “It is Japan who is being provocative against China,” Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told a news conference.

The dispute over territories in the East China Sea, as well as China’s establishment of an air defense zone, were points of contention during meetings between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese officials.

Last year, China created an “air defense identification zone,” which it claimed gave them the right to take military action if foreign planes flew near the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. The islands are controlled by Japan, but China insists they are under their ownership.

Hagel reasserted the US position that it will come to the defense of any of its allies in the region, including Japan.

And the real danger in both circumstances is that the US will be unable to step in to ease those tensions because it no longer has the standing and clout it once had.

But the problem goes far beyond any weaknesses of Mr Obama as president. Seventy  years ago, the US imposed a set of global institutions on the world that  enshrined its universal values. Today, Bretton Woods and the UN are fraying. No  country, even the US, has the power to reinvent them. Whether the US is led by a  multilateralist or a unilateralist, the values underlying them are also under  challenge. The world is drifting back into a situation of assertive regional  powers and a weakening hegemon. It is hard to believe that whoever replaces Mr  Obama will have better luck in reversing the tide,” writes Edward Luce in The Financial Times.

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