The bipolar world that dominated much of the 20th Century ended because of the Soviet Union’s (USSR) implosion. United States (US) President George H. W. Bush announced a “New World Order” later that year on September 11, 1991 and it was assumed a unipolar world order had emerged in the aftermath of the struggle between the bipolar Great Powers of the US and the USSR that had been waging in the context of the Cold War since 1946.
With the Yalta bipolar system established in the aftermath of the Second World War, the world had a more balanced military-strategic parity but a significant and inconsolable discord on not only the global economic struggle between capitalism and communism but also on a philosophical level between liberalism based in Washington DC and Marxism based in Moscow.
Although this struggle never erupted into a direct war between the US and the USSR, the decolonizing world and/or under-industrialized world found itself embroiled in an ideological power struggle between liberalism and Marxism and saw hot wars emerge in Indochina, Korea, Greece, Cuba, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In some wars liberalism won, and in others Marxism won.
However the collapse of the USSR also signified the end of the bipolar system and the emergence of the unipolar world dominated by Washington with its own interests prioritized. With liberalism emerging victorious, it opened the flood gates for the US to dominate intragovernmental organizations such as the United Nations and ensure that NATO still had relevance in the post-Soviet world.
The famous thesis of the “End of History” by Francis Fukuyama asserted that the world will become totally homogeneous culturally, ideologically, politically, economically and socially, and that with the imminent implosion of the USSR, the last ideological rival to liberalism after fascism had been defeated in World War Two, had collapsed. In his view, remaining so-called communist states were becoming liberal. He claimed that “we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind,” and that because representative government, rampant capitalism, and consumerist culture had become globalized, history had reached its goal. He believed that homogeneity of political and economic ideology would lead to a more harmonious world where the only global struggles was at a peaceful economic level between competing capitalist states. However this belief had not considered that countries, and there are many of them, were not conforming to the liberal homogeny order and would not eventually integrate into them.
In addition to George Bush Senior’s announcement of a “New World Order”, others had made announcements on a US-centric unipolar system.
– “The American Century” formalized by The Project for the New American Century.
– “Benevolent Global Hegemony” by William Kristol.
– “New Empire” by Robert Kaplan.
– “America’s Pacific Century” by Hillary Clinton.
Although Fukuyama’s theory had a sense of sincerity, Washington saw the opportunity to create a hegemony in the post-Soviet world. This hegemony was not that of Fukuyama’s vision where representative democracy and open free market ruled the world order, rather, the hegemony was US-centric and in the vision of The Project for the New American Century, Kristol, Kaplan and Clinton. With a Boris Yeltsin-led Russia being raided and looted of its wealth by criminal oligarchs, and China yet to reach the prosperity and economic development that it has experienced in the 21st century, the US was free to militarily engage against and destroy a crumbling Yugoslavia, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, among others, who did not adhere to the US hegemony.
However, it was not expected by Washington that ‘the Russian bear’ would break free from its cage, nor that the ‘Chinese Dragon’ would fly high again – both challenging the ‘US eagle,’ so to speak.
Two significant moments occur that abruptly announced the end of the short-lived unipolar world and the emergence of multipolarity: The 2008 Russo-Georgia war where Moscow defied a NATO threat to defend South Ossetia from Georgian forces; and, 2013 where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the creation of the One Belt One Road project, now known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that has and will continue to radically change the global economic and transportation system.
Dr Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann correctly asserts that the 2008 Russo-Georgia war was the “multipolar world’s first war.” Moscow’s eagerness to defend its citizens in South Ossetia from Georgian aggression demonstrated a resurgent Russian military that was willing to challenge NATO expansionism into the Caucasus. It was inconceivable even a decade earlier to the war that Russia would be willing to risk war with NATO that had been coddling its relations with Tbilisi. Although the US remains firmly the top military power of the world, the Russian defiance in South Ossetia demonstrated that emerging powers could test Washington’s military strength and will. In another act of challenging Washington’s global military hegemony was Russia’s Syria intervention in September 2015. From 2011 the US had diplomatically attempted to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad internationally, sanction the country and fund jihadist groups, before finally establishing illegal bases on Syrian territory and conducting air strikes against government forces and their allies. The Russian intervention not only meant that they were sharing dangerous skies with the US, it also meant that Russia was willing to military engage to defend an ally that was at war with the US Empire.
With Russia being an economically weak state for a Great Power but military strong, China balances this deficiency for its economic power despite having a weaker military to Russia. Their mutual goals for sovereignty and independence in a balanced world system has consolidated their relationship and serves as a counter balance to US hegemony.
It is unlikely that the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela could have survived sustained and intense aggression from the US without economic and/or military assistance. Although Russia and China have engaged in a strategic cooperation within the framework of a multipolar “BRICS” order that sees the US ceasing to be the sole superpower and major economic force as it was in the short-lived unipolar world, the Age of Multipolarity is not reduced as a Great Power Rivalry between the US, China and Russia, but rather also incorporates many Middle Powers playing essential roles in power balancing, as financial hubs and in security. All four aforementioned countries have significantly different philosophical ideologies, their single tenant idea for sovereignty and independence. This has only been survived thanks to Russian and Chinese efforts. Their survival however meant formations of new alliances and relationships that should otherwise be impossible. One such example is the close relationship between Venezuela and Iran despite their significantly different histories, cultures, experiences, demographics and ideologies.
These smaller blocs are beginning to emerge in this new multipolar world, and just as said, all seemingly to be impossible. Another is Turkey and its relations with Venezuela. Although Turkey has the same differences as Iran does with Venezuela, it provides an even more interesting example. Although Turkey is a member of US-led NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recognized the Age of Multipolarity and has continually defied US demands. Although continued threats of sanctions from Washington, Turkey bought the Russian S-400 missile system despite its incompatibilities with NATO defense systems. This signified that Turkey had entered the Age of Multipolarity as it continued to pursue its interests that were in opposition to the interests of the US. Ankara’s defiance against Washington was only possible because Turkey was ensured that Russia could counterbalance any aggression from the US. In another act against Washington, Erdogan declared US-despised and bus driver-turned-Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as his ‘brother’ and vehemently defended him when the US intensified its aggression against Venezuela in January 2019.
These Middle Power alliances are for now reliant on the backing of Russia and China. However, as they continue to develop and prosper with the backing of Russia and China, it remains to be seen whether they will break off their reliance with these Eurasian Giants and serve as a sorts of Non-Aligned Movement that although still exists today, has lost relevance today. A consolidated alliance of Middle Powers has no evidence of emerging for now.
Professor Alexander Dugin correctly asserted that “the most important aspect of the Theory of the Multipolar World is the concept of counter-hegemony as first formulated in the context of the Critical Theory of International Relations.” Every US war of aggression since the emergence of the unipolar war has been one of hegemonic conquest to destroy Middle Powers who could pose a threat to their global dominance, whether it be Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Iraq. It is not that these individual states could pose a threat to US hegemony, but the very possibility of a strong Middle Power alliance that could emerge and bring challenges to the US Empire was intolerable. Although Ba’athist Iraq, the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were all destroyed by the American Empire, the security that Russia and China can ensure has meant the emboldening of Venezuela, Iran, Turkey, Philippines, among others.
Dugin then continues to explain that “the call for multipolarity is not sounded in empty space. Discourse on international relations and global political, social, and economic practice is dominated by hegemony. We live in a strictly Eurocentric world in which only one superpower (the USA) together with its allies and vassals (the NATO countries) are the imperialist dominants and in which market relations dictate all the rules of business practices, where bourgeois political norms are considered to be compulsory, where the technique and level of material develop is considered as the highest criteria, and in which the values of individualism, personal comfort, material well-being, and “freedom from” are extolled above all other factors. In other words, we live in a world of triumphant hegemony which has spread its network on a planetary scale and has subordinated all of mankind.”
In this way it can be asserted that the US in in fact not only a hegemonic power, but also an empire. With the US
maintaining over 800 military bases in 70 countries, some of them illegally like in the case of Syria, it dwarfs Russia’s military presence in ten countries and China’s sole international military installation in Djibouti. Richard Immerman, in his detailed monography ‘Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz,’ contends that “America is and always has been an empire.” In support of Immerman’s views, Linda Colley agrees that the US is an empire that began its empire-building with the westward expansion across the North American continent in the late 18th century. Julian Go defines “empire as a sociopolitical formation wherein a central political authority exercises unequal influence and power over the political (and in effect the sociopolitical) processes of a subordinate society, peoples, or space.” In addition, Charles Tilly argues that the core of an empire exerts “military and fiscal control” in every segment of its periphery.
When considering the more than 800 US military bases dotted across the globe and its orchestration of regime change across Latin America, Africa and the Islamic world, while applying Go’s explanation that empires exercise unequal influence and power to subordinate and Tilly’s assertion that empires exert military control, the US must be considered as a modern empire but still different to those seen in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Whereas traditional subordination was only through direct military intervention as the US had done in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is not limited to these employments of domination. It also employs economic subversion as it does against Russia and Venezuela, especially when considering the sanctions coupled with Saudi Arabia, as Washington’s main Arab ally, imposing an oil oversupply since 2014 which directly targets the Russian economy by lowering the price of oil.
If we apply the interior and exterior theory of an empire to the US invasion of Afghanistan, it can be seen that along with getting so-called justice for the September 11 terrorist attacks, the diversion of Afghan capital to the
interior of the empire (Washington), then it again further demonstrates the US is an empire. In this case we refer to “The ‘Unconquerable’ Afghanistan: A Place Where Empires Come To Die And The ‘Third Great Game'” by Paul Antonopoulos:
“Sibel Edmonds found that:
There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan. By 2016 that number went up to 4,500,000 (2.5 million heroin addicts and 2 million casual users). Heroin deaths shot up from 1,779 in 2001 to 10,574 in 2014 as Afghan opium poppy fields metastasized from 7,600 hectares in 2001 (when the US-NATO War in Afghanistan began) to 224,000 hectares in 2016. (One hectare equals approximately 2.5 acres).
Ironically, the so-called US eradication operation in Afghanistan has cost an estimated $8.5 billion in American taxpayer funds since the US-NATO-Afghan war started in October 2001. With the skyrocketing heroin use in the US, Professor Michel Chussodovsky attributes this to the CIA, stating:
“Heroin is a multibillion dollar business supported by powerful interests, which requires a steady and secure commodity flow. One of the ‘hidden’ objectives of the war [in Afghanistan] was precisely to restore the CIA sponsored drug trade to its historical levels and exert direct control over the drug routes. The creation of the opium industry has meant that upwards of 50% of the Afghan economy is directly and indirectly funded by narcotics, effectively making the country a narco-state as Colombia was in the past.”
This is especially significant since the illegal global opiate industry is worth $65 billion as of 2014, with Afghan heroin accounting for 90% of the narcotic worldwide,74 and an astonishing 90% of Afghan heroin ending up in the US. The heroin industry also directly employs 400,000 Afghans; this is more than the Afghan National Army. In this instance, Afghanistan is serving as an agricultural peripheral state to the so-called empire with the commodity brought to US markets and profits going directly to criminal syndicates with close connections to elements within the country’s security and intelligence apparatus.”
However Afghanistan was invaded in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, years before Russia could offer itself as a military rival to the US and before China’s rapid development began to reach levels where it could challenge the US-centric economic system. The recent military resurgence of Russia and the economic megalith of China has meant the defense of states seeking sovereignty from the American Empire.
This therefore raises the question whether China and Russia, as emergent Great Powers, can themselves be considered imperialistic. Western critics have questioned whether China’s Belt and Road project is a case of neo-Colonialism. Imperial China suffered and experienced decades of imperialist and colonial rule by successive Western powers which prevented any independent economic development in a richly resourced region. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, and to a lesser extent the US, exacted from China trade and territorial concessions that would have a lasting impact on its economic development until liberation in 1949. Ingrained in Chinese memory are the Opium Wars which failed to prevent Britain flooding China with the drug. The military invasion of China by imperial Japan, with its associated atrocities, also remains a strong memory in China. The Chinese experience of colonialism and imperialism has influenced its foreign policy since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. It has meant that China has always been wary not to become a coloniser or imperialist power as it rises as a major world power in the Age of Multipolarity. To emphasise this point, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a 2015 tour of Kenya, that “[China] absolutely will not take the old path of Western colonists.”
Although Russia was an imperialist power, deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Russian is the severe poverty in the last years of the Romanov Dynasty and the success of the Bolshevik revolution and the emergence of the powerful Soviet Union. Under the banner of the Soviet Union, the Russians were to be the most important peoples to assist in the de-colonization of Asia and Africa. It is within living memory the attempt the Russians and other Soviet peoples made to defend Afghanistan against US-backed jihadists. These same jihadists were later to be used against Russia in Caucasus.
It is for these reasons it is unlikely that China and Russia will become imperialist powers. Rather, they have come to play integral part of an anti-imperialistic bloc of sorts. The military support of Russia and the economic support from both Russia and China has ensured that North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela have survived against intense US aggression of varying degrees. Therefore, the Age of Multipolarity is one where states have their sovereignty and independence to pursue their own destiny in their states economy, culture, traditions and psyche.
However, for a balanced multipolar world to ever exist, rampant neo-liberal economic structures must be destroyed. So-long as exploitative class structures exist, the pursuance of peace will be rendered impossible so long as capitalists search for markets and labour to exploit. It is therefore necessary each state pursues a socialist economic system sensitive to the cultures and traditions. Along with the support from Russia and China, it is because of their socialist systems that North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela have survived imperialist aggression. While socialist systems assist in the survival of a state besieged by the American Empire, rampant capitalism is slowly choking to death the working class and shrinking the middle class in imperialist aggressors states like the US, the United Kingdom (UK) and France.
Although there was centuries of colonial conquest and looting, where the UK stole $45 trillion from India alone, the working class of Britain saw little of that benefit. With wealth not only pouring in from its own colonies, but as Eduardo Galeano explained, even the wealth looted in Latin America by the Portuguese and Spanish would eventually end up in London. Despite this significant advantage, 20% of UK people live in poverty including 8 million working-age adults, 4 million children and 1.9 million pensioners. Although Vladimir Lenin correctly asserts that the experiences and suffering of the exploited in a colonial state is not the same as the working class in industrialised states like the UK, citing that the British working class became increasingly bourgeois, none-the-less, even peoples in the imperialist centers suffer from varying degrees of poverty and humiliation. Essentially, this is to highlight that the capitalist system is not compatible with the multipolar world that aims to find a balanced power structure and economic prosperity.
Conforming to Lenin’s thesis that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, an age of peace and economic prosperity cannot exist if capitalism continues to ravage the globe in the name of money. That is not to say that we would live in a world without money, but it is to say that the Age of Multipolarity should be in opposition to the glorification of symbols and consumerism. Rather, the defense of family structures and traditions is needed, according to the sensitivities of every religion and culture. Consumeristic and instant gratification culture has been ingrained in capitalist societies. These degeneracies are used to distract the people from the crimes of their own state, whether perpetrated domestically or internationally. Imperialistic states, with its population distracted, continue to savage the general well-being of countries it has brought the famed capitalism too, while states where socialism arrived see an upsurged in prosperity.
If we look at US-backed or led interventions, like that in Afghanistan where they successfully toppled the Soviet-backed socialist government, a massive decline in Human Development Index (HDI) and a greater disparity in wealth, as well as a decline in freedoms and social progress, has always followed. Whereas, in any successful Soviet-backed struggles, the general trend is that there is an increase in HDI, a decrease in wealth disparity and an increase in freedoms and social progress. If we use this methodology, then it must be remembered that under the Soviet-backed government, Afghanistan became secular, illiteracy virtually eradicated, women emancipated and feudal practices abolished. These are all progresses that were reversed after the success of US-backed jihadists toppling the socialist government. We must also consider that in 2000, one year before the US war on Afghanistan, total life expectancy from birth stood at an abysmal 55.13 years, while today it has decreased even further to 51.7 years.
The successes of the short-lived Afghan government has been repeated to a greater degree across the world that adopted a socialist system despite being suffering from sustained US aggression, such as Cuba, Venezuela and China. While critical US infrastructure like bridges and dam decay away, as poverty increases, as drug deaths rise, it is unsurprising then that the Washington Post made a headline titled: “Income inequality is rising so fast our data can’t keep up.” How then can it be justified that the US has spent over $6 trillion of taxpayer money on war of aggression considering that the US debt stands at over $22 trillion. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the war on Afghanistan has significantly contributed to the precarious economic situation the US finds itself in today. This is not to say that the US wars on Afghanistan, and even Iraq, is the sole reason for the economic decline of the US. So why would the US embark on such self-destructive military adventurism?
Michel Parenti explains that taxpayers money is used to fund wars demanded by shareholders in the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Essentially, wars are manufactured to enrich a small wealthy minority with shares in the MIC. It is therefore essential that the Multipolar system is economically socialistic to ensure that the essential necessities needed for the people are provided for without the need to find new markets and labor to exploit.
The Age of Multipolarity was accelerated because of Russia’s and China’s continued harassment from the US desperate to preserve the unipolar system. It was not acceptable to Washington that Russia could reclaim the former Soviet space as its own zone of influence and the rapid expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and murmurs of expansion into the Caucasus meant that a Putin-led Russia had to prioritize the rehabilitation and modernization of Russia’s outdated military. With US wars of aggression landing on China’s doorstep in Korea and Vietnam, in US military bases in Japan and South Korea, China also had to prioritize its military capabilities but also experienced economic prosperity and rapid growth thanks to Chairman Mao Zedong’s foundational work and having a significant labor force.
The continued military pressure by the US on Russian borders has backfired as Russia under Putin rapidly advanced its military capabilities to become one of the most proficient, professional and modern armies in the world. It is because of Russia’s military might that the US is now able to be challenged in key hot spots like those in the Caucasus and the Middle East (Syria). However, Russia cannot yet challenge the US economically, and it is here that China serves as the balancing force against US hegemony. However, as China and India continue to rapidly develop, they will be able to challenge the US globally in their own right. A system of balanced power provides the best opportunities to protect the interests of developing states under the auspice of Russia and China and protected from rampant neoliberalism and wars of aggression.
As Dugin explains, the multipolar system “insists on the presence of a few independent and sovereign centers of global strategic decision-making on the global level” and that “these centers should be sufficiently equipped and financially and materially independent to be able to defend their sovereignty in the face of a direct invasion by a potential enemy on the material level, and the most powerful force in the world today should be understood as this threat. This requirement is reduced to being able to withstand the financial and military-strategic hegemony of the United States and NATO countries. These centers of decision-making must not accept the universalism of Western standards, norms, and values (democracy, liberalism, free market, parliamentarism, human rights, individualism, cosmopolitanism, etc.) and can be completely independent of the spiritual hegemony of the West.”
Effectively the multipolar system must ensure anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, socialism, a rejection of identity politics and a respect for all cultures, religions and traditions. US hegemony and neo-colonialism has prevented the emergence of such systems from bringing equity and decency globally, however a multipolar system is a part of the long march to such a world.
To be continued