War is a tragedy. And it is truly tragic that at the cusp of the 21st Century we are unable to settle differences between states without going to war. That, at a time when humanity is faced with glaring challenges from new viruses to climate calamities to water shortages, to name a few. Covid 19 and its impact on the world’s state of health and economy is the first episode in a protracted scenario of future catastrophes we will face collectively unless and until we get our act together.

For the outside observer, it is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty how long Russia and the United States have been gaming Mr. Putin’s move on the Ukraine. What may seem as unintended consequences for some may very well have been part of a long and complicated set of calculations undertaken over time. The validity of the assumptions underlying such calculations, as well as the efficacy of the methodologies utilized to undertake the calculations, are and will continue to be subjects of debate for a long time after this tragic war is over.

The swiftness with which Ukraine’s refugees were welcomed by the United States and Europe is heartwarming. Perhaps we did learn hard lessons from the way refugees from other parts of the world were and are being treated. However, the cries of some Western politicians and media that Ukrainian refugees are white Christians and, as such, more deserving of salvation, created an unintended consequence. In the minds of many in the developing world who are not “white” (as if such a yardstick can be used with precision) and are not practitioners of the Christian faith, or are white but practice other religions, these cries were a reminder that racism and religious bigotry still reign supreme in many parts of the world.

It is often said that in politics perception is reality. Did the West’s moral authority and standing suffer with audiences in developing countries as a result of these public pronouncements? Will peoples of developing countries continue to rely on Western institutions as anchors and influencers in the former’s journeys towards modernity, liberalism, democracy, and universal human rights? Or is the perception of hypocrisy currently too glaring for comfort? And if the latter, how will this impact reform movements in various parts of the developing world? Less borrowing of theory and practice from the West and more locally developed methodologies? Rejigging the balance between local and imported inputs in a reform process may not be a bad thing - it adds momentum to existing efforts, as well as increases ownership and traction.

The economic impact of the Ukraine war is beginning to be felt globally. The added strain on supply chains and additional increases in commodity prices and inflationary pressures, already with us as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, do not bode well for many countries. The war’s impact on the global financial system is yet to be seen. However, the swiftness of economic and financial sanctions imposed by the West on Russia and many of its global business leaders will have several unintended consequences. As analysts have noted already, it should come as no surprise that attempts will be made to create an alternative to the SWIFT banking system. The new system (or systems) may be joined by not only Russia and China but many other developing countries as well, as the latter seek to hedge their economic and financial fortunes, and bets. Also expected is the rise of alternative currencies to the US dollar to use in global trade. To what extent will these currencies also become repositories of wealth and not just mediums of exchange remains to be seen.

The freezing of assets and bank accounts of oligarchs and business folk close to Mr. Putin has moved swiftly on a global scale, including in countries that were previously considered safe havens for such individuals. An unintended consequence to this action is that not only oligarchs but wealthy individuals worldwide, whether their monies are clean or the result of corrupt practices and sweetheart deals, will start thinking twice about storing wealth in the West, or in other countries than their own. The global political winds are shifting too rapidly for comfort these days. Wealthy individuals from developing countries will start bringing monies back home and attempts at legitimizing ill-gotten wealth will commence. Tax amnesties will be enacted and financial settlements of economic crimes concluded under such banners as economic crimes laws. The sharing of wealth on a national level will accelerate as many political regimes seek to augment legitimacy by allowing citizens to have stakes and vested interests in the economic development of their countries. IPOs and stock markets will flourish.

The political positions of many developing countries vis-à-vis the Ukraine war was made clear a few weeks ago in the United Nations when 35 countries, including China and India, abstained from voting to condemn Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. Perhaps this reflects a lack of a global moral consensus as to who is right and who is wrong in this war. And perhaps this reflects geopolitical realities a la Metternich’s real politik. Or both. Regardless, an unintended consequence to this tragic war may be the formation of something akin to the The Non-Aligned Movement; a group of developing countries that teamed in 1961 and declared their lack of alignment with either West or East. The founders of the Non-Aligned Movement are now household names and have come to signify standing for and defending the rights of the dispossessed and the underprivileged: the Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Yugoslavia’s President Tito, Egypt’s President Nasser, Ghanaian President Nkrumah, and Indonesian President Sukarno. If such a new coalition of developing countries comes to be, then we will see a multipolar Cold War II, not World War III.