What are zones of influence and how do they play a role in shaping the world? – World Order

A zone of influence is a geographical area in which a State exercises its political, economic, cultural and military dominance. The great powers of history have formed spheres of influence to project their interests in the territories that shape them, as well as to shape their organizations and internal affairs. Correspondingly, the zone of influence is also a model for analyzing international realities which includes the actions of the strongest states against the weakest. French political scientist Raymond Aron popularized the term in his work Peace and war between nations (1962) to explain the functioning of the international system in the Cold War.

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From European colonialism to American victories

The zone of influence was before the pulse between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the outbreak of imperialism in the first half of the 19th century, Western colonialism over Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean was an extension of this policy of domination. In the 1840s, for example, China and Britain were involved in two opium wars, which after British victories led to the division of Chinese territory between European sphere of influence. In this way, Europeans controlled their ports and commercial areas, as was Hong Kong in the case of Britain.

Left behind in the colonial race, the United States introduced policies “open door” to cancel Europe’s sphere of influence and compete for a share of trade with China. After claims of territorial expansion were reached, Washington proposed the Monroe Doctrine, according to which he claimed Latin America and the Caribbean as natural zones of influence under the slogan “America for America.” In this way he tried to stop the entry of Europe into the continent.

The concept was eventually consolidated as a result of Yalta Konferensi Conference February 1945, near the end of World War II. The meeting between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt meant the creation of the Iron Curtain and the beginning of the Cold War. The world began to divide into two zones of influence: the United States, with NATO as an instrument of military security, and the Soviet Union, with the Warsaw Pact. Even though it was close, the division prevented another world war from breaking out, but there was an indirect confrontation between the superpowers in Korea, Cuba or Vietnam.

With the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States tried to unite all countries under its sphere of influence. Without a Soviet counterweight, America created a unipolar world order and established itself as the sole hegemonic power, among other things, through NATO itself.

Russia and China broke through with military and money

The growth of Russia and China in recent decades has caused the two emerging powers to compete with the United States to expand their spheres of influence and secure dominant positions in global trade. They did this, on the one hand, by militarizing different geographic areas. For example, President Xi Jinping’s ambition to South China Seathrough which more than 30% of world trade passes, collides with US ambitions in the same place.

China also sees an opportunity to increase its power in Africa, where it is a major trading partner: the continent’s countries are getting investments to modernize, while the Asian giant is securing routes to export its products. Likewise, Beijing has found in South America more institutionalized partners and natural resources. During the pandemic, face mask diplomacy has established the country as a major partner in the region with the sale of medical supplies.

On the other hand, Russia has consolidated its sphere of influence in the former Soviet republics, where it sets a political agenda based on its interests, and to a lesser extent in Latin America and Africa with diplomacy and mercenaries, respectively. In 2022, Moscow uses the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to intervene militarily in favor of the government. However, the big goal of its president, Vladimir Putin, is Ukraine. The invasion of this neighboring country was caused by the Kremlin’s fear of losing its historical influence on Ukrainian territory in favor of NATO. Ukraine, like Belarus, acts as a containment dam between Russia and the Atlantic Alliance, in the space that prevents the West from entering Moscow’s zone of influence.

Elena Eland

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