For one, the war in Ukraine and tensions in the Pacific look to be accelerating a division of the world into Cold War-like political and economic blocs. But whereas the West accounted for over 50% of global GDP at the beginning of the Cold War—with the United States dominating global manufacturing and running huge annual trade surpluses—the West looks to be in a weaker if more entrenched position of power today, and its major adversaries stronger in certain ways than the communist bloc was in 1948.
Before we enthusiastically embrace a new Iron Curtain, therefore, it’s worth pausing to consider how many countries in the world will voluntarily place themselves on our side. The countries of what we consider “the West” will—for ideological and historical reasons, in addition to economic and military enmeshment—undoubtedly remain relatively united. But the West only accounts for about 13% of the world’s population, with China and Russia together making up about 20%. That leaves about two-thirds of humanity “nonaligned,” a position that most of them would like to maintain. If we force them to choose a side, we may be surprised by many of the results.
A tally of the countries participating in current sanctions on Russia, in fact, makes it hard to say whether a new Iron Curtain is being drawn around our adversaries or around the West itself. Countries and nominal U.S. allies as significant as India and Saudi Arabia have been particularly vocal in their refusal to take sides in the conflict in Ukraine.
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