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Opinion | Will the Ukraine Warfare Spell the Finish of Globalization?

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Opinion | Will the Ukraine Warfare Spell the Finish of Globalization?

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If proponents of globalization too often characterized it as a historical inevitability, those warning of its imminent unraveling may be guilty of the same error. Just as the forward march of globalization has been impeded by unforeseen consequences and contingencies, so, too, could its reversal.

For a potential glimpse at this fitful dynamic, one need look no further than the economic contraction that Russia is now experiencing, which “shows just how difficult it is for states to thrive without economic interdependence, even when they try to minimize their perceived vulnerability, ” Posen notes. “Russia’s attempts to make itself economically independent actually made it more likely to be subject to sanctions, because the West did not have to risk as much to impose them.”

Posen, for his part, doubts that the economic and political risks of deglobalization will stop many governments from at least trying to achieve more self-sufficiency. But the result, in the view of the historian Stephen Wertheim, may not be so much a global turn toward national autarky as toward international economic blocs.

Countries that fear being on the wrong side of Western sanctions “may want to make plans to align economically with certain states, and abandon others when the chips are down,” he told Jewish Currents. “And preparing for such an eventuality may actually help to bring that eventuality into being, as states become less reliant on certain trading partners and make strategic partnerships with others.”

But as Wertheim notes, the global economy is still a long way from such factionalization. It’s possible that Russia’s exile will be the exception that proves the rule of globalization’s durability.

“You are removing this big chunk of the global economy and going back to the situation we had in the Cold War when the Soviet bloc was pretty much closed off,” Maury Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Washington Post. “But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world can’t be tightly integrated in terms of trade and finance.”

In the years to come, the editors of The Guardian write, “Deglobalization does not mean we will see a new age of autarky — the kind of drastic reversal seen in the 1920s and ’30s, when protectionism surged and global trade collapsed.” They add, though, “The high tide of globalization has passed for now; the question is how far the water will drop.”

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