European and American relations with Asian and African countries are collapsing, according to Republic of Congo MP Jeremy Lissouba and many analysts. Moscow and Beijing can certainly benefit from that, but the true bottom line is that nations in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South are also benefiting from partnerships and cooperation which in turn are being framed in the language of non-alignment and multi-alignment. This is a language which the West does not seem to speak very well.

Within the last year, many high-ranking Western leaders have visited the African continent (often dubbed the “new China”). This includes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and US Secretary of State Antony John Blinken. These leaders are interested in enhancing trade in cooperation with emerging African economies. However, according to Lissouba, they have been trying to sell Africans something we perhaps could call “alignmentism”. In his words: “these superpowers wish for nations of Africa and Asia to pick a side.” That message, however, has not been so well received by Global South’s own leaders.

In the post-pandemic world, food insecurity, as well as energy and fuel crises, have become major issues. One year after Russia’s ongoing military campaign in Ukraine, food prices remain high, even though they have retreated from their early 2022 record highs. According to the IMF, this situation is likely to persist.

This is largely so because of Western sanctions against Russia and also because of the West’s lack of diplomacy during the Ukrainian conflict – and many African and Asian nations see it thusly. Fuel wars have also been made worse by US sanctions, such as the US Ceasar Act.

Although the EU blames Moscow for the global crisis, Russia has agreed on extending a grain deal with Ukraine, during the current conflict, to ensure grains continue to flow to Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. This has been announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN. European lawmakers and top EU diplomat Josep Borrell in turn have admitted that the European bloc is considering blocking Russian wheat exports – Russia being  the world’s largest wheat exporter, mainly to Africa and the Middle East. Many shipments of Russian fertilizers (critical to global food chains) are already not reaching global markets.

It is thus quite understandable that the global rise in commodity prices has been largely perceived, in the Global South, as a product of the US-led West’s sanctions policy. This has forced Global South countries to look for parallel mechanisms and alternatives. In this spirit, a new non-aligned tendency has emerged, and the BRICS+ expansion is arguably part of that. So much is talked about how the BRICS group today has a window of opportunity to project itself as a kind of alternative to the Western bloc, but there are also other parallel groupings, of which we should not lose sight. For instance, in a March 21 telephone conversation with his South African counterpart, Brazilian President Lula da Silva has mentioned his desire to bring the  IBSA Dialogue Forum (India, Brazil, South Africa) back to the spotlight.

These new configurations and groupings have the potential to foster new forums and new systems. Much more needs to be done, though: new (non-dollar-based) market mechanisms and institutions, as well as new diplomatic structures and mechanisms are badly needed, not only to avoid bipolarity and to build multipolarity, but, even more importantly, to minimize the risks of a global nuclear war and literally save the planet.

Emerging powers such as India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Egypt, are showing the world that a new age of non-alignment and multi-alignment has come to stay. These emerging powers have been successfully avoiding the new cold war trap of alignmentism, while pursuing their own interests.

The rise of a new non-aligned tendency amongst African leaders must be seen as part of this larger context. While the West hypocritically campaigns against energy projects in the African continent, emerging African, Middle-Eastern and Asian nations are increasingly building on multi-alignment, non-alignment, and multilateralism. They do so while developing beneficial relations with China and Russia – as exemplified by the Egyptian Russian-built nuclear plant.

In spite of being involved in a regional conflict (which is also a Western proxy war), Moscow has been successfully resisting the temptations of alignmentism and of the cold war mentality, by maintaining mutually beneficial bilateral relations with powers, such as India and Pakistan, that also pursue good ties with the West. European states and Washington on the other hand increasingly demand alignment.

A blatant example of the Western cold war mentality were the American threats to invade the Solomon Islands over their security deal with Beijing. I have written on how US aggressive anti-Chinese diplomacy in Asia consists in  pressuring its potential allies and partners to cease trading with China (something which in itself threatens regional economic stability). This approach risks alienating nations in that region and ultimately backfiring. The same could be said in fact about the Global South in general.

Another issue which alienates the Global South is Western paternalism – itself an expression of Western exceptionalism, so well exemplified by Josep Borell’s infamous remarks about Europe being a “garden” – and the rest of the world a “jungle”.

In Lissouba’s words, the declining West needs to seek out “a genuinely new footing” in its relations with African and Asia countries, “challenging its own assumptions and understandings about what a respectful partnership between equally legitimate nations truly means.”

To sum it up, much of the Global South (which is to say much of the world) is fed up with alignmentism – which is largely promoted by the political West. Moscow gets it. The West doesn’t. Partly because of that, a large part of the Global South is also fed up with the West itself.

By Uriel Araujo Via