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Two years on: The ongoing war in Ukraine is further highlighting the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ divide

Article by Dr Sasikumar Sundaram

February 20, 2024

Two years on: The ongoing war in Ukraine is further highlighting the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ divide

Soon to enter its third year, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine continues to highlight a stark geopolitical split between the Global North and the Global South. For the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe, which represent the ‘Global North,’ resisting Russian aggression is an existential issue to save humanity from hell. By bringing the full force of sanctions, lawsuits, and military might, they stood together as democracies. However hard it may have been, they were united against the bewildering reality of global disorder brought by the Russian invasion.


These Global North states have displayed a steadfast commitment to preserving the rules and norms that define and guide the conduct of states. Many have also revised their foreign and security policies to preserve global order in ways that were simply unimaginable before. Two years into the war, how they articulate and hold these commitments together and stay true to the promises made to fierce Ukrainians poses new challenges. Particularly within the context of emerging democratic crises and changing public opinion on the war within the West.


For many Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American states, making up the majority of the ‘Global South,’ this war is an existential issue but from another reality. It has created food insecurity, rising energy prices, and a supply chain crisis. It led to the weaponisation of the US dollar, which made international borrowing costly. The war has relied on disruptive technologies to spurt out simplified images of supporters and detractors from the non-Western world. Furthermore, the rejection by the West to calls for a ceasefire, not the least in part due to an academic-military-industrial complex which is justifying the war to protect liberalism, has created, and in some places entrenched, mistrust and dissatisfaction.


For the Global South states, the approach of countries in the Global North has appeared ever more like a continuation of the established practices of the West, oblivious of the concerns of the rest. For many poor Global South states, Western hypocrisy toward upholding the norms of sovereignty, human rights, and the rule of law is not new. The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine only brought these further out in the open. However, many other powerful Southern states have amplified these hypocritical practices to drive their exclusionary nationalism, using the crisis to point out the unfolding of a global disorder. Russia in turn has seized the opportunity to strategically reach out to the Global South, and declaim its association with the West, a move that was simply unimaginable before.


At this juncture, there are new challenges facing those seeking to win over the Global South states. Working within new coalitions and blocs, many of them have become emboldened and fastidious about speaking truth to power. Two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Global South and its leaders are more central than ever on the international stage.


Dr Sasikumar Sundaram is a Lecturer at the Department of International Politics at City, University of London. His main research interests lie in International Relations Theory and the Global South States, focusing on India, Brazil, and China. His book Rhetorical Powers: How the Global South Asserts Competence in World Politics is forthcoming from Columbia University Press (June 2025).


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre.

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