Countries representing the majority of the world’s citizens defy the West’s attempt to sanction Russia.
Contrary to the spin promoted by the Western media, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not been universally condemned, sanctions have not been widely adopted, and trade with Russia has not been limited to a trickle.
The demonization of Russia is primarily a project of America and its allies. By some metrics—such as the countries’ populations that refuse to fall in lockstep with Western rhetoric—the global majority pooh-poohs the West’s narrative. Moreover, many countries representing this global majority attempt to subvert the West’s attempts to punish Russia and the Russians.
As expected, communist China, with its 1.45 billion people, has emerged as Russia’s foremost ally, but close behind in population is India, the world’s largest democracy, with 1.4 billion people.
India has not only rebuffed U.S. pressure to condemn Russia at the United Nations or to impose sanctions, but it has decided instead to increase its imports from Russia, a long-time ally, and to counter the West’s denial of its use of the SWIFT banking system by paying for Russian goods in rubles.
India’s neighbors—Pakistan (population 228 million), Bangladesh (167 million), and Sri Lanka (22 million)—have also refused to condemn Russia.
Half of Africa’s countries have refused to condemn Russia. South Africa, a democracy with 61 million people, goes further, blaming the United States and NATO for the war in Ukraine.
Official criticisms of Russia are widespread but mostly half-hearted and belated. Many countries around the world initially reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with diplomatese for “who cares,” perfunctorily calling for hostilities to end and negotiations to begin. Most explained their decisions to stay out of a military conflict that didn’t affect them by saying they had a formal policy of neutrality or non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs.
That was the position of Southeast Asia’s ASEAN bloc, whose democratic members include Indonesia (270 million), the Philippines (112 million), Thailand (70 million), and Malaysia (32 million).
“Stop the war. War brings misery to humanity and puts the whole world at risk,” tweeted Indonesian President Joko Widodo, identifying neither Russia nor Ukraine by name.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressed regret at “the latest developments in Ukraine.”
These countries and others flipped their official position only after the United States organized a non-binding resolution at the U.N. that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and only after the United States threatened to sanction countries that didn’t back Ukraine.
Most of the countries’ U.N. diplomats then took one for the team by signing onto the do-nothing resolution and continued with business as usual. Vietnam and Laos, non-democratic members of ASEAN, simply abstained.
South American countries, too, initially had no intention of getting involved in a dispute an ocean away, then acquiesced to Western pressure and signed onto the resolution. In the case of Brazil—the continent’s largest economy and country with a population of 215 million—the signature came despite a declaration by its president, Jair Bolsonaro, that he was “in solidarity with Russia” just before the invasion.
While governments are often cynical in their public condemnation of Russia, their populations often are not. In Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy and its most populous Muslim country, comments from pundits and traffic on social media indicate that popular opinion is largely pro-Russian because it is anti-American, a sentiment that exists in much of the third world.
Short of war, tough sanctions represent the only measure to force Russia into abandoning its invasion of Ukraine. Here the world’s indifference is laid bare. Apart from U.S. allies, almost no countries have imposed sanctions on Russia. Even when they do, many of the sanctions tend to be token, often little more than virtue signaling.
Canada has banned imports of Russian oil, which Canada rarely imports, and banned Russian ships from Canadian ports, which Russian ships rarely visit.
Australia touts targeting Russian billionaires, the sanction of choice for those who want to minimize compromising their relations with Russia.
The ambivalence in sanctioning Russia can even be seen in Georgia, a country that fought a war with Russia in 2008, and which now trades with both Ukraine and Russia. Almost two-thirds of Georgians agreed with their government’s decision to ignore the U.S. call for sanctions, despite their history with Russia.
As put by Georgia’s agriculture minister: “We fully support Ukraine [and] we are in solidarity, but first we must think about our people and avoid causing them [damage] as much as possible. In today’s reality we have trade relations with Russia; certain products come in and are exported.”
In 2016, eight years after Georgia’s war with Russia, relations between the two warmed, with 66 percent of Georgians having a positive attitude toward Russia and 90 percent having a positive attitude toward Russians living inside Georgia. Russians’ feelings toward Georgia and Georgians weren’t far off—59 percent and 71 percent, respectively.
Despite a recent shooting war between them, their respectful relations today contrasts with the widespread intolerance now shown by many in Europe and North America toward Russians living or working in the West. Inflamed by a barrage of incendiary language on social and mainstream media, Russians abroad who have no connection to the Russian government are being fired from their jobs and having their businesses vandalized.
While the Western world demonizes Russia and imposes sanctions that collaterally damage the rest of the world, the rest adapts by trading in Chinese yuan or Russian rubles and curtailing its reliance on Western institutions and Western resources.
South Africa is pushing for revitalizing the third world’s non-aligned movement, established especially as a counterforce to U.S. dominance.
The demonization not only acts to alienate Russia from the West; it also serves to isolate the West from the rest of the world.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.