Faultline opened by Ukraine war forces new global relationships

IISS Strategic Survey finds Nordic states are now pivotal while 'Russia is knocking at Iran's door'

John Chipman, chief of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Nordic and Baltic countries would now shape European security priorities. AFP
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The war in Ukraine has triggered the biggest geopolitical realignment in a generation, testing the relationships of Moscow and Beijing while changing European power balances as well as altering the dynamics for handling Iran, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Monday.

Launching the 2022 Strategic Survey, the London-based institute said the invasion in February led not only to a conflict with implications well beyond the European region but marked a break from the "now forgotten" era of the war on terror.

Iran's role in supplying weaponry to the conflict was highlighted by IISS chief executive John Chipman on Monday, who pointed out that Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, recently admitted Europeans had underestimated Tehran, whose impact on the continent's theatre of war created a new understanding of Iranian activities.

Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security, said a new dynamic between Russia and Iran was one of the fallouts from the conflict, though he added it was not a given that Moscow would fulfil all Tehran's hopes for an equal partnership. "Not so long ago Iran was the junior partner," he said. "Not so long ago Iran was hoping Russia would provide weaponry, technology etc. Now it is Russia knocking at Iran's door."

The Biden administration’s senior Iran envoy on Saturday said Washington was focused on Tehran's role in supplying arms in Ukraine having judged there was no Iranian interest in securing a deal with the West to ease sanctions. “Iran is not interested in a deal and we’re focused on other things,” US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said. “Right now we can make a difference in trying to deter and disrupt the provision of weapons to Russia and trying to support the fundamental aspirations of the Iranian people.”

Europe's balance of power has tilted to the East with the Franco-German partnership having to accommodate the interests of states on the front line of the bloc. "It's the Nordics and Baltic states, now united almost in a single strategic theatre with the Poles and Czechs, that will determine European security priorities and continue to insist on an important response to Russia's invasion," Mr Chipman said.

By defending its interests across its core European heartland, the West would lend credibility to its Indo-Pacific tilt and bolster the reliability of its commitments to the Middle East, he said.

It is not only European factors that means the Indo-Pacific is not immune to the new faultline pressures. The think tank also weighs up the scope of Beijing and Moscow's "partnership without limits".

"China does not want to be associated with, or to suffer consequences from, Russia's inadequate performance in the field," said Nigel Inkster, senior adviser for Cyber Security and China. "It's noteworthy that China has been at pains not to do anything economically in relation to Russia that would put it at risk of secondary US or international sanctions."

The report examines how the faultline will affect relationships across a gamut of issues, not least in outer space, where it warns the security environment is more contested than ever. It says emerging threats have grown and could be less manageable than those on Earth. "These threats undermine strategic stability, raise the risk of miscalculation and rapid escalation in a crisis and require new solutions," the annual report said.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 5:50 PM