If the 1990s was the decade of “peacemakers, democrats and internationalists”, says Gideon Rachman in the FT, today it is “nationalists, warmongers and conspiracy theorists” who have the wind in their sails. There is a growing danger that Russia will gain an upper hand in Ukraine; in the Middle East, brief optimism over the Abraham peace accords between Israel and several Arab states has been “shattered” by the Hamas attacks; in the US, Donald Trump is now the bookies’ favourite to win the presidency in 2024. What’s worse is that each of these gloomy developments feeds on the others.
The war in Gaza is redirecting US hardware away from Ukraine, giving a boost to Vladimir Putin. And the Russian president may not have to fight on for long, given the growing prospect that Trump will return to the White House and “abandon Ukraine to its fate”. That Trump victory is itself made more likely by the Gaza war, since Joe Biden will need the votes of young progressives and Arab Americans, many of whom are furious about his support for Israel. It would be absurd if pro-Palestine sentiment wins the election for Trump, a man who has threatened to ban Muslims from entering the US. “But history abounds with absurdities.” And with all this going on, China’s Xi Jinping may well “sniff an opportunity” to ramp up pressure on Taiwan – opening up a whole other can of worms. It’s not a cheery thought, but the “strongest trends in world affairs are malign and gathering momentum”.