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25 trends in contemporary international relations and world development

© Форпост Северо-Запад

The Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the UK (2011-2019) Alexander Yakovenko specially for Forpost highlighted the main, current today geopolitical trends. Deglobalization, the second wave of decolonization, the crisis of the liberal idea... According to the author, these and 22 other trends of civilizational development will form the basis of the future world order.

1. The crisis of five centuries of Western dominance in global politics, economics and finance, as well as on the level of values and ideas (because we are talking about the dominance of a specific Western civilization). We can say that the informal global empire of the U.S./West, including the Bretton Woods system, is the last empire. Hence many other trends.

2. The crisis of any hierarchical structures in international relations, to be replaced by conditionally soft forms of interstate cooperation, based on common interests and the desire to promote them by joint efforts. They are open and inclusive, have a variable geometry and a huge potential for further development, coming from life. The SCO, BRICS and EAEU are vivid embodiments of this trend. They oppose the cumbersome military-political alliances inherited from the past, with strict allied discipline, which were created to wage wars: this is the main reason for the crisis of NATO, which has become on the path of aggressive promotion to the East in order to artificially maintain its "raison d'etre".

3. At the same time we can talk about the crisis of deterrence policy, including military and political methods and through sanctions pressure, the development of other leading states in the world and regional powers in line with the proverbial “Thucydides' trap”. In particular, we are talking about the double containment of the U.S./West - Russia and China - through the creation of the Ukrainian crisis and the problem of Taiwan.

With regard to Russia, the current cycle of Western containment of it dates back to World War I, one of the motives for which Germany unleashed it was to prevent Russia from becoming the dominant economic power in Europe (Russia's economic growth rate on the eve of the war was about 10% and was comparable to the "peaceful rise" of China). It can also be defined as a crisis of "hedging" policy, with a pronounced protective character in relation to the worn-out system of Western dominance, expressed in the dual enlargement process - NATO and the EU - in the post-Cold War period.

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Countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and many others are also targets of containment policies. A specific form of Western containment policy is control (through MNCs, unfair terms of trade, trade for dollars and other methods) over natural and other resources, including minerals, of post-colonial countries, for which they are the most important source of development.

4. Democratization of international relations on the basis of the Westphalian principles enshrined in the UN Charter (sovereign equality, independence, non-interference in internal affairs). The ideological confrontation of the Cold War era was a departure from these principles, and its inertia in the modern policy of Western capitals/elites has a devastating effect on world politics, universal international institutions, including the UN system, and the entire post-war international legal order. The former ideological antagonism of capitalism-communism is being replaced by another, democracy-authoritarianism, which is also designed to prolong Western dominance. As the non-Western world's response to Western sanctions pressure on Russia over the Ukraine crisis shows, this time we can judge the West's self-isolation and the marginalization of Euro-Atlantic politics to a regional level, ceasing to be global (in contrast to how it was in both World Wars and the Cold War).

5. Forming the basis for a polycentric world order, which in principle was provided by the privileged status of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the principle of their unanimity). New centers of economic growth and political influence are emerging globally and regionally, indirectly recognized by the creation of the G20 summit format as a result of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009. This natural process accompanies the decline/decay of the West's global hegemony, which has become a brake on world development.

6. Multipolarity has a civilizational character, since the new centers, be they China, Russia, India, South Africa, Turkey, Iran and others, have a different cultural and civilizational character from Western civilization (which is expressed, for example, in the methods of consensual functioning of ASEAN, opposing the methods of ensuring Western domination).

7. Thus, the emancipation of the world from Western domination is accompanied by the fact that the reality of cultural and civilizational diversity of the world with its value systems and development models, which has been suppressed by the West for centuries through the methods of colonial expansion and neocolonialism, becomes the most important factor of international relations and world development.

Путин и Эрдоган

8. Deglobalization (a term coined by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to refer to the modern era) refers to the crisis of globalization led by the investment classes of Western countries, whose contradictions, like the globalization of the eve of World War I, have led to the current crisis of global governance. On one hand, globalization has led to the rise of the rest of the world; on the other hand, it has caused a crisis of Western society - with a breakaway of cosmopolitan elites from the rest of the population, a sharp decline in employment, the destruction of the middle class, growing inequality, stagnating consumer demand, the dysfunction of party-political systems and a crisis of their legitimacy (the postwar "social contract" envisioned a socially oriented economy, which neoliberalism betrayed at the turn of the 1970s-80s. - Reaganomics-Thatcherism). The conservative reaction of Western elites to deglobalization, their desire to maintain their dominance at all costs, exacerbates the crisis of global governance.

9. One of the consequences of deglobalization is regionalization of global politics, i.e., strengthening the regional level of governance with corresponding institutions and instruments, including the search for regional solutions of regional problems (e.g. the Astana process on Syria, the Moscow process on Afghanistan), which kind of insures the world community for the time of forming a new world order. Its distinctive feature will be the presence of strong regional clusters. The self-isolation of the West is quite in line with this general trend.

10. Deglobalization in the West's resistance leads to fragmentation, including trade and economic (development interests of states cannot wait), and chaotization. The latter poses a real threat to all and urgently requires the resumption of contacts and cooperation on a de-ideologized, pragmatic basis by all states concerned.

11. The growing importance of nation-states as key international actors is evident.

12. In parallel, the importance of supranational institutions and structures, such as the European Commission, is falling, creating a crisis of democratic accountability of power as an important part of the social crisis in the West.

13. The importance of natural resources, which are not only exhaustible but also serve as the main source of development for post-colonial states, is increasing. It is obvious that the time of cheap resources has passed: this is also moral, since the level of their consumption by Western countries threatens a planetary catastrophe and is simply unattainable for the remaining 8 billion people living in non-Western countries.


14. The almost ubiquitous - in Asia, Africa and Latin America - crisis of development of post-colonial countries indicates the creation of conditions for a second wave of decolonization, this time of liberation from neocolonial dependence, primarily by regaining control over their natural and other resources.

15. Federalization meets the requirements of harmonious, inclusive internal development of states. An example is Ukraine, whose problems would have been solvable with its federalization, which could have been triggered by the implementation of the February 2015 Minsk agreements. The request for decentralization existed everywhere in the country, whether it was the regions, including Western Ukraine, or large municipalities - Kharkiv, Odessa and others.

16. Deglobalization also means the need for basic self-sufficiency of states, especially of the leading ones, as they can become the target of unilateral unlawful sanctions. Russia has been forced to move in this direction for a number of years due to sanctions pressure from the West, and therefore finds itself in this trend to a greater extent than other countries.

17. The West's willingness to wage a virtually all-out economic war, regardless of the consequences for itself, puts on the agenda the imperative of the ability of states to provide the basic necessities of life, that is, the basic needs of their people - in food, heat, electricity, hot and cold water. In other words, the provision of food, energy and fresh water for basic survival. This is the advantage that Russia has over the EU countries, which is reminiscent of the situation in the Middle Ages, when the space that later became the Russian Empire, was able to adequately provide its population with fresh water and heat.

18. The events of recent years, including the holding of the USO in Ukraine, show that in the absence of agreement between the leading global powers with opposing visions of an upcoming world and world order, the factor of military force has once again increased in importance. Not only in support of diplomacy and its foreign policy narrative, but also to ensure national security and the very survival of the state. The EWS in Ukraine shows that the use of force is induced by the refusal to fulfill obligations under signed international agreements, such as Minsk-2. That is, the international legal principle of pacta sunt servanda is violated and what is commonly called good faith is missing from the signing of agreements.

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19. The growing importance of the power factor in international relations has been facilitated by the consistent destruction by the United States and the West as a whole of the arms control and confidence-building measures established during the Cold War. For example, the US withdrew from ABM, INF treaties and Open Skies, while NATO countries buried the CFE Treaty by refusing to ratify an agreement to adapt it to the new reality that emerged after the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the CFE Treaty and the collapse of the USSR, as well as the expansion of the Alliance towards Russia's western border.

20. Power confrontation between states acquires the character of a hybrid war, including "war through proxies", sanctions pressure, cyber operations and information confrontation, which has vividly manifested itself in connection with the Ukrainian issue. In fact, we can talk about what used to be understood under the term “indirect aggression.” On the surface, the hybrid war serves as a substitute for the "big war", say, in Europe, but, as this year's events show, it still balances on the verge of a direct armed conflict between Russia and NATO with the prospect of nuclear escalation.

21. There is no doubt that the West's willingness to use military force arbitrarily, bypassing the UN Security Council, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria, reduces the incentives for states to comply with their obligations under WMD nonproliferation regimes. The reason is still the same - the West's undermining of the post-war international legal order, based on principles and norms common to all states, whether it be unilateral reactions, including interventions, including "humanitarian", liberation from the treaty restrictions of the bipolar era, or a claim to a monopoly on some "rules-based order" that is nowhere written down, but is intended to replace the universal postwar ones, enshrined in the relevant international instruments adopted collectively.

22. The crisis of liberalism and the liberal idea itself, first of all in the Western countries themselves, including the USA. The onslaught of Western elites on traditional conservative values, including family values and basic common sense, accompanied by the clampdown on freedom of speech and dissent under the pretext of political correctness, leads to what can hardly be called other than liberal totalitarianism. It was liberalism's inherent aggressive uniformitarianism that gave rise to fascism and Nazism.

23. The theme of biopolitics, that is, the attitude of elites to the population as a biomass, is once again becoming relevant. Nazism became its final manifestation in the Western civilization. Malthusianism and eugenics are being revived, with same-sex marriages and transgenderism superimposed upon them, while not only the population of the Third World but the Western countries themselves have become superfluous. Against this background, one cannot help but be alarmed by the growing influence, including as a leading generator of profits, of the Big Pharma business, especially the American one, which uses human health as a resource for economic growth, but at the same time participates in the development of biological weapons.

24. For virtually all nations, including those in the West, questions of identity, history and faith are coming to the fore as a reaction to the contradictory effects of globalization and the destruction of what remains of traditional society, which has been eroding since the French and subsequent European revolutions and, in Russia, the Revolution of 1917. This process has gone most far in America with its "cultural revolution," "abolitionist culture," "critical racial theory" and other products of liberal elites. Therefore, it is logical that this theme also asserts itself in international relations, including as sabotage against rival states. An example is the "anti-Russia" project in Ukraine designed to undermine the Russian identity and historical narrative.

25. The crisis of the global monetary and financial order (Bretton Woods system) has been markedly exacerbated by sanctions pressure on Russia in connection with the SWO in Ukraine. As a result, its universality, and therefore legitimacy, is being undermined. The issue of withdrawal from it by means of clearing and barter, as well as the growing use of national currencies in international settlements, is entering the practical plane. It opens up the prospect of shrinking the scope of the dollar and the euro to currency zones, making room for other currencies backed by appropriate resources and financial instruments.