In the Global South, Europe’s problems do not necessarily dominate the discourse.

by Krishen Mehta, ACURA Viewpoint

In October 2022, about eight months after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the University of Cambridge in the UK harmonized surveys that asked the inhabitants of 137 countries about their views of the West, Russia, and China. The findings in the combined study are robust enough to demand our serious attention.

  • Of the 6.3 billion people who live outside of the West, 66% feel positively towards Russia, and 70% feel positively towards China.
  • 75% of respondents in South Asia, 68% of respondents  in Francophone Africa, and 62% of respondents in Southeast Asia report feeling positively toward Russia.
  • Public opinion of Russia remains positive in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam. 
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin and the President of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jinping, in Goa,India

These findings have caused some surprise and even anger in the West. It’s difficult for Western thought leaders to comprehend that two-thirds of the world’s population is just not lining up with the West in this conflict. However, I believe there are five reasons why the Global South is not taking the West’s side. I discuss these reasons in the short essay below. 

1. The Global South does not believe that the West understands or empathizes with its problems.

India’s foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, summed it up succinctly in a recent interview: “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” Developing countries face many challenges, from the aftermath of the pandemic, the high cost of debt service, and the climate crisis that is ravaging their environments, to the pain of poverty, food shortages, droughts, and high energy prices. Yet the West has barely given lip service to the seriousness of many of these issues, even while insisting that the Global South join it in sanctioning Russia. 

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