Commentary: Not taking sides in Ukraine war sends a terrible message to Russia


The Non-Aligned Movement faces new challenges today, as the war in Ukraine continues.

For many governments in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, non-alignment remains appealing. Most depend heavily on trade, aid and investment both from the Western powers and from China (if not also from Russia). Choosing sides could thus be crippling economically. 

That danger is apparent in Belarus, which faces stiff Western sanctions for aiding the Russian war effort. Countries opposing Russia also risk debilitating energy cutoffs. Taking sides against China in any future scenario, such as the conflict over Taiwan, would be even more costly.

Relative non-alignment is also attractive from a security standpoint. It enables governments to obtain weapons from multiple sources and limit dependence on any single power. This is a major factor for India, which remains heavily reliant on Russian arms, and to a lesser extent, for countries like Vietnam.

Non-alignment helps keep diplomatic doors open as well. This appeals to governments wary of losing policy autonomy if they rely too much on one powerful state or bloc for political support.

For all of these reasons, non-alignment is likely to continue to be common. In fact, its strategic appeal is arguably stronger now than it was during the Cold War because of greater global integration. Unlike the 1950s, most countries now have strong economic, political and, in some cases, military linkages to both the East and the West.

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