Is Supra-Nationalism Becoming the Weapon of Weak States?

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To those writing obituaries for the age of oil and gas — the age of oil may be far from over. The discovery of huge gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean has yet again thrown the geopolitics of Europe and the MENA region into turmoil.

The US, Saudi Arabia and Russia are today competing for the same markets further complicating the equations amongst them. In fact, the US has joined Russia and Saudi Arabia to becoming one of the biggest oil producers in the world. It (the US) is a net exporter for whom markets in Europe and Asia are fair game.

Turkey had been seeing itself as the hub of gas trade linking producers in Iran, Russia and Central Asia to buyers in Europe. Russia, never comfortable with potential mediators or competitors to its European interests, has been wary of Turkey — afterall nothing compares to being the energy lifeline of Europe.

The unending conflict over Libya — torn by civil war — too has a lot to do with the standoff between big players over these markets. The conflict between east and west Libya sees Russia, the US, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE supporting Khalifa Haftar against the Government of National Accord (GNA) supported by Turkey.

The European Maritime Jurisdiction Map commissioned by the EU and drawn up by the University of Seville had sown the seeds of discord over Turkey’s maritime interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Hemmed by the EU’s Seville Map Turkey had no option but to redefine its maritime boundaries. It signed its arrangements with the GNA in Libya ranging it against Italy, France and Greece.

As states focus inward, consumed by their self-interests — rising nationalism is a sign of weak states with weaker and divided institutions. In the 19th century, the state was deemed all powerful — imbibing to its core the principles of saam, daam, dand, bhed and arth. With financial globalisation and redefined capital flows — the state’s control reduced. Fresh narratives of identity-based nationalisms play out on Twitter.

Under their cover, short-term solutions are being fervently pursued by populist leaders desperate to stay afloat in storms they find impossible to navigate. What we see is the supra-nationalism of the Covid world creating even more divisions across governments, political institutions and geographies.

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