A Turning Point: Russia and China's Grip on World Power

A Turning Point: Russia and China's Grip on World Power by Ambassador Dr Theodor H. Winkler

A Turning Point: Russia and China's Grip on World Power

By Theodor H. Winkler

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine has profoundly altered our world. Nothing is as before; all has changed. We are experiencing what Olaf Scholz has called a “Zeitenwende”. It is far from over. Much remains unclear, in flux. The Western countries, in particular, need to redefine their defence and foreign policies.

Against this background, Amb. (ret). Theodor H. Winkler’s newest book, “Zeitenwende – Russlands und Chinas Griff nach der Weltmacht», is of particular relevence. It analyzes the roots of the fundamental change we witness, its perspectives, and its consequences. Winkler sees in the Russian attack on Ukraine a major catastrophe - for Ukraine that is suffering badly under the destruction heaped on it by the aggressor, for Russia, which is deprived of its future, for the world which is going to suffer from more conflict (like Africa), and a world deeply divided at a time multilateral and joint action would be needed to the challenges we face (from global warming to artificial intelligence).

The problems posed by that war would, though, be dwarfed by those of Chinese attack against Taiwan – a military operation larger by a factor of 10 than the Russian invasion force on 24 February 2022. Such a move would be possible, Winkler estimates, from 2027 onwards. It could lead to a world war, at least to a severe global economic crisis. To prevent such a Chinese attack is, therefore, of paramount importance. 

Winkler includes in his fascinating book clear recommendations for the West – and notably Switzerland. He argues that we need to define our national interests, redefine the mission of the armed forces, and alter our neutrality politics. The latter’s strict interpretation during the last few months has severely harmed Switzerland’s national interests. Switzerland must return to a more liberal foreign and neutrality policy. Winkler argues that international Geneva – above all the three Geneva Centres – should and could play a major role in strengthening of that position.

“Zeitenwende” is an eminently readable and relevant book that is a must for all those interested in the current political debate (let alone for those engaged in it). It is of particular importance for the Geneva Centres. It is a plea for them to sail hard from the wind and to provide crucial services to the international community.

Theodor Winkler is a distinguished Swiss public servant. He studied at the University of Geneva and at the Graduate Institute, from which he ultimately received his PhD in International Security Studies in 1981, after having been a research fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs and at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He then entered government service in Switzerland’s Federal Military Department, known today as the DDPS. He held essential positions such as Head of Studies for the General Staff’s Strategic Intelligence Service from 1981 to 1991, and represented the Chief of the General Staff for Politico-Military Affairs from 1985 to 1995. Having been the architect of the ITC, as he often reminds us, he was then appointed as the first director of the Geneva Center for Security Policy in 1995-1996, before heading the DDPS’s International Security Policy in its General Secretariat. He then chaired Switzerland’s Partnership for Peace interdepartmental office and reflection group. From 2000 to 2016, with the rank of Ambassador, he was the director of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, GCSP’s close neighbor in the Maison de la Paix. Ambassador Winkler is a prolific author of several hundred articles published by scholarly journals, DCAF, and in the daily press in Switzerland and in the UK.

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