Your one-stop shop for everything related to the Peace of Westphalia

Peace of Westphalia in the News, 2/2022

It has been a busy year and I am way behind my attempt to keep up with this subject; but, no time like the present. In case I have not mentioned it previously, I will be skipping anything from the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) or the Schiller Institute because they are LaRouchite, and, frankly, have very little interesting to say.

Our first article this time is “Can US’ balancing strategy last after Ukraine crisis?” from the Global Times. The author refers to the Peace of Westphalia in the context of Henry Kissinger’s book World Order, in which Kissinger located the beginning of balance of power in that peace. The article cites Kissinger’s opening to China and attempt to balance China and Russia, as necessary, “in order to achieve US hegemony,” lamenting that Kissinger’s diplomacy “is not about trying to cooperate with the other side.” Leaving aside the fact that Westphalia was only peripherally related to balance of power, I think the author misses the point that balance of power is always about pursuing a country’s own interest. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the co-operation as any less sincere just because it coincides with a state’s interests. How odd it would be for a state to co-operate with another country contrary to its own interests! Balance of power is about co-operating as far as possible to make sure no party becomes too powerful to become a hegemon. (In my view, countries always exclude themselves from being a potential hegemonic threat because that result would be in their own interests; to the extent that they consciously attempt to avoid appearing hegemonic, it is to avoid a backlash from other states in the system, not because they think it would be bad in itself.)

I find the article interesting because it cites a recommendation from Kissinger 50 years ago that the U.S. should “play the balance of power game without any emotion.” This is especially relevant in the current environment when many in the U.S. feel an emotional tie to Ukraine and seem oblivious to the potential consequences of military support to that country. When it comes to foreign affairs, at least those that push the boundary between diplomacy and war, empathy is a dangerous luxury. Diplomacy often requires doing things that we do not want to do, because those things have the least bad consequences of several unpleasant potential options. I hope to elaborate on this in a future post.

Next we have an article called “Explaining the international system in the context of Ukraine-Russian crises” in the online journal Global Village Space. The subtitle/capsule summary explains it clearly:

International law and norms prohibit Russia to interfere in the internal affairs of any country including Ukraine. It is completely inhumane, immoral and illegal to hold Ukraine punished, for the reason that it tends to become a member of an alliance. But here again, it is stated that no matter what the international law argues, these are only moral norms, and states do what they have to do in order to pursue their best interests.

To the extent that that is the author’s thesis, I agree with him. He also refers to a meeting of the Pakistani PM with Putin in Moscow as the invasion of Ukraine was beginning. “As the world watched in shock the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” begins the article from an Indian site, “Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan sat in the Kremlin doing what he does best — raising the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.” How appropriate for Pakistan to seek support from Russia right as Russia is beginning a war that leaves it relatively isolated internationally. It does not seem to have had any effect, but don’t assume that Russia won’t swing some deals like this in the future if they need allies badly enough. (The article about Pakistan was the link for a reference to the Peace of Westphalia, and I have no idea how it was supposed to be related.)

The last article for today is “War over Peace,” from another Indian site, Telangana Today. It has nothing interesting to say about Westphalia (just dating the beginning of the nation state to it), but it does make an interesting point: why did NATO continue to exist after the fall of the Soviet Union? I’m not sure that it should have been disbanded, but the continued existence of a military organization consciously organized against Russia does seem provocative in a sense. Of course, Russia did not cease being a threat when the Soviet Union dissolved, but it was certainly less of a threat (significantly smaller, for instance) and one could imagine a NATO reorganized or refocussed on regional security. According to the article, Boris Yeltsin even expressed an interest for Russia to join the alliance. I can conceive of problems with this, of course, but very different problems from the open war and potential nuclear exchange that we are facing today.

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