The new polycentric international order

Image: Nikita Nikitin


The End to the Endless Expansionism of NATO and US Hegemony

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dismantling of the USSR in 1991 brought an end to the bipolar international order that had ruled the world for almost half a century. As “international order”, we can understand, from the literature of the history of international relations, essentially, a certain set (in movement) bringing together norms, institutions and authority structures that modify, limit and direct the behavior of the actors that make up the system -world during a certain period.

There are two unequivocal historical movements in the transitions and establishment of a certain world order: the pen and the bomb, that is, war and peace. This happened in the “Peace of Westphalia”, in 1648, with the outcome of the so-called Religious Wars. In Vienna, in 1815, after the Napoleonic Wars, and the so-called “European Concert”. In the so-called “Peace of Versailles”, in 1919, at the end of the First World War. Or still in Yalta, Potsdam and San Francisco, in 1945, with the end of the Second World War. After the Soviet collapse, in 1991, the US bombing of Iraq, in the First Gulf War, established new directions in the international field through the power of weapons.

In view of this situation, from the 1990s onwards, the United States and the European Union prioritized in their geopolitical agenda the “management” of the dismantling of the “Russian empire”, due to its economic consequences and the old geopolitical challenge of Central Europe. The Americans hastened NATO expansion and quickly took over the military positions left by the Soviet army in Central Europe. The United States and its Western allies explicitly supported the autonomy of states in the former Soviet “zone of influence” and actively promoted the dismemberment of Russian territory.

Starting with Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and continuing through Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asian countries. They supported the independence of Kosovo, pressured the deployment of their “anti-missile shield” in Central Europe and began to openly arm and train the armies of Ukraine, Georgia and Central Asian countries, disregarding the fact that most of these countries belonged to Russian territory. , during the last three centuries. Despite the dissonance and warning of respected internal voices such as George Kennan, the “containment theorist”, who condemned how the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe would be its tragedy, and Henry Kissinger, defender of the respect for the so-called “zones of influence” of the great powers.

After the humiliation of the Yeltsin years, this new century is witnessing a Russian renaissance. Russia has been explicitly practicing a policy of accretion of power. It is notable that the Russian reaction began with the government of Vladimir Putin, in 2000, and its strategic reorientation. The Russian president has recentralized power. He reconstituted the Russian state and economy, rebuilding its military-industrial complex and nationalizing its vast energy resources. He articulated the construction of the BRICS. Holder of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet, the new Russian government warned the United States of the possibility of a new nuclear race, if they continued with their project of developing an “anti-ballistic shield” in Central Europe – more precisely in Poland.

In August 2007, Putin planted a titanium Russian flag in international waters deep in the Arctic. In 2008, he invaded Georgia. In 2014 he annexed Crimea. He sets himself up as an impediment to any Western intervention in Syria and has secured his ally Bashar al-Assad in power. And since then he has strengthened his strategic ties with China, especially after the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union, after the annexation of Crimea.

On February 4th of this year, 2022, strategically at the opening of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in Beijing. On the occasion, in addition to participating in the opening ceremony of the games, the two heads of state released a “Joint Declaration” that draws attention both for its assertiveness and breadth.

The two countries announce an alliance of a higher level and unprecedented in the history of the world-system: “The new interstate relations between Russia and China are superior to the political and military alliances of the Cold War era. The friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no 'forbidden' areas of cooperation”, says the text.

The long document deals with practically all relevant aspects of international politics, democracy and human rights, pandemic, defense of peace, color revolutions, shared and sustainable development, combating climate change, terrorism, internet governance, communication warfare, etc.

In essence, the document as a whole represents a passionate defense of multilateralism and a new polycentric international order. It reveals a solid intention of the two countries in unity, openly contesting the post-Cold War, Atlanticist and Anglo-Saxon international order, as well as the end of North American hegemony. It establishes that the world-system undergoes a transformation in its architecture of governance and world order. According to the text, “humanity is entering a new era” and “is witnessing the development of processes and phenomena such as multipolarity, economic globalization, the advent of the information society, cultural diversity, transformation of the architecture of global governance and world order”.

The letter points directly to NATO and sets clear boundaries for its role in this new world order. The document says: “The parties oppose further NATO enlargement and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideological Cold War approaches and respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries. The parties oppose the formation of closed-bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and remain highly vigilant about the negative impact on peace and stability in the region of the US Indo-Pacific strategy.”

It points to an inexorable “Eurasian” displacement of power: political, economic, technological, military, diplomatic, cultural, sporting… of Silk”, the greater Eurasian integration and multilateral organizations such as the G20, ASEAN, BRICS and in particular, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). At the end, one of the conclusions of the text shows: “Russia and China intend to comprehensively strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and further enhance its role in the formation of a polycentric world order based on the universally recognized principles of the international law, multilateralism, equal, joint, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security”.

The history of international relations demonstrates that any breach of an established world order implies the use of force. Twenty days after Putin's visit to Xi in Beijing and the release of this Sino-Russian document that clearly and unequivocally challenges the post-Cold War international order, Russia invades Ukraine. And, by the power of arms, of course, supported by its great ally, China, inaugurates a new era in the world.

A new polycentric international order, putting an end to the endless expansionism of NATO and US hegemony, which were perpetuated for thirty long years.

*Pedro Costa Junior is a doctoral candidate in political science at USP. Book author Collapse or Myth of Collapse?” (Appris).


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