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Why the World is Not Becoming Multipolar

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In Russia, the concept of multipolarity is usually associated with Yevgeny Primakov. Indeed, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation marked the start of the transition to multipolarity as a key trend in contemporary international life back in 1996[1]. During his visit to New Delhi as Prime Minister in late 1998, Primakov proposed a plan of trilateral cooperation between Russia, China, and India (RIC) as a practical mechanism for promoting global multipolarity. Sergey Lavrov has also stressed Primakov’s outstanding role in developing the concept of a multipolar world.

Western international relations experts will hardly agree to give priority to the Russian scholar and politician. As a rule, they trace the emergence of the concept of multipolarity to the mid-1970s. The roots of multipolarity are found in the rapid rise of the economies of Western Europe and Japan, in the United States’ defeat in Vietnam, in the energy crisis of 1973–1974, and in other trends of global politics that do not fit into the rigid framework of the bipolar world. The establishment in 1973 of the Trilateral Commission intended to encourage and improve relations between North America, Western Europe, and Eastern Asia also reflected the idea that multipolarity was coming into being, if not already fact[2].

Chinese historians, in turn, can claim their own version of multipolarity (duojihua) that emerged in the early 1990s and can be traced to the theoretical works of Mao Zedong. In China, the world was expected to transition from unipolar to multipolar via a “hybrid” global political structure that combines elements of both the past and future world systems.[3]

Regardless of how we date the birth of multipolarity as a concept and whom we hail as its pioneer, the concept clearly is not a recent invention, but an intellectual product of the 20th century. It would seem that over the decades that have passed since it was proposed, multipolarity should have evolved from a hypothesis into a full-fledged theory. As regards political practice, intuition suggests that, over the course of several decades, the multipolar world should have finally taken shape as a new global political system with relevant norms, institutions, and procedures.

Yet something clearly went wrong. The world is not behaving as the founders had predicted.

Elusive Multipolarity

In October 2016, twenty years after Yevgeny Primakov’ policy article was published in the journal International Affairs, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, during which he commented, “I certainly hope that… the world really will become more multipolar, and that the views of all actors in the international community will be taken into account.” Six months prior to that, Putin noted the role of the United States in international relations: “America is a great power, today perhaps the only superpower. We accept this.” That is, even though a multipolar world is the desirable world system, presently it is too early to say that the “unipolar moment” has been completely overcome.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, following the general logic and even the style of Yevgeny Primakov’s narrative of 20 years ago, also spoke about the start of a transition to multipolarity and the completion of the process in some indefinite future: “… A change of eras is always a lengthy process. It will continue for a long time.” As an additional complication, Lavrov emphasized the staunch resistance of the proponents of the old world order: “There are active attempts to hinder the process primarily on the part of those who used to dominate the world, who wish to preserve their domination in new conditions as well, and, generally speaking, to enshrine their domination forever.”

This logic is hard to dispute. Yet some questions remain.

First, the historical experience of the previous centuries offers no examples of an old world gradually transforming into a new one over time. The changes in the world order that took place in 1815, 1919, and 1945 were not evolutionary, but imposed by revolutionary (forcible) means and stemmed from large-scale armed conflicts that had preceded them. The new world order was always built by the victors in their own interests. Of course, we may suppose that humanity has become wiser and more humane over the last 100–200 years, though not everyone would agree. Yet even if that is true, surely all attempts to “gradually” transition to a multipolar world would be the same as trying to alleviate the pain of a beloved pet dog by cutting off its tail piece by piece.

Second, if we take as given that the transition to a multipolar world will become an extended process spread over, say, five decades (1995–2045), this leads to the depressing conclusion that humanity will remain in the “grey area” between the old and new world orders until the middle of the 21st century. This “grey area” is clearly not a particularly comfortable or safe place. It is easy to predict that it will lack clear rules of the game, understandable and generally recognized principles of the functioning of the international system, and numerous conflicts between the emerging “poles.” The system may even split into individual fragments and its “poles” will become self-isolated in their regional or continental subsystems. Can we afford several decades in the “grey zone” without subjecting humanity to extreme risks?

Third, do we even have sufficient grounds to say that the world is moving towards multipolarity, even if this movement is slow, inconsistent, and sporadic? Could we, for instance, conclude that today, the European Union is closer to being a full-fledged and independent global “pole” than it was ten years ago? Can we assert that, over the last decade, Africa, the Middle East, or Latin America have made significant progress towards the status of a collective “pole”? Is it possible to say that as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) expanded, the group increased its capability to act on a consolidated stance on the international stage? If we are not yet prepared to give an unequivocal “yes” to all these questions, then we do not have the right to say that the world is steadily moving towards multipolarity.

Over the years, multipolarity has become like a distant horizon that keeps receding as we move towards it. Could we not, therefore, apply Eduard Bernstein’s famous saying that “the movement is everything, the final goal is nothing” to multipolarity? That is, could we perceive multipolarity not as a full-fledged alternative to the existing world order, but as a mechanism for correcting the weakest and most vulnerable elements of this order?

“The Concert of Europe” 200 Years On

Adherents of multipolarity like to cite the “Concert of Europe,” the Vienna System of international relations established in Europe in the early 19th century after the Napoleonic wars. This system was truly multipolar; it did indeed help preserve peace in Europe for a long time. Historians debate the precise date at which the system collapsed: 1853 (the start of the Crimean War), 1871 (the Franco-Prussian War) or 1914 (the First World War). In any case, after 1815, the 19th century was relatively peaceful for Europe, particularly when compared to the disastrous 20th century.

Could the “Concert of Europe” be repeated 200 years later, this time in the global, rather than the European, context?

Let us start with the fact that the members of the “Concert of Europe,” despite being very different states, were still comparable in power and influence militarily, politically, and economically. The cosmopolitan European elites remained largely homogeneous (European monarchies in the 19th century were essentially one extended family), spoke the same language (French), professed the same faith (Christianity), and were in general part of the same cultural tradition (the European Enlightenment). Of even greater importance is the fact that the members of the “Concert of Europe” did not have radical, irreconcilable differences in their views on the desirable future of European politics, at least until the rapid rise of Prussia and the subsequent unification of Germany.

Today, the situation is drastically different. The potential members of a unipolar system have fundamentally different political weight. The United States has a greater weight in today’s international system than the British Empire had in European politics in the 19th century. The global elite is heterogeneous, and there are profound differences in their cultural archetypes and basic values. In the 19th century, the differences between the members of the “concert” pertained to specific issues in European politics, to the “manual tuning” of the complicated European mechanism. In the 21st century, the differences between the great powers pertain to the very foundations of the world order, the basic principles of international law, and even more important questions such as justice, legitimacy, and the “great meanings” of history.

On the other hand, the Concert of Europe was so successful largely due to its flexibility. Great European powers could afford the luxury of promptly changing the configuration of unions, coalitions, and alliances to maintain the overall balance of the system. For instance, France was one of Russia’s main adversaries in the Crimean War. Just a year later, after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1856, Russia and France embarked upon a phase of active rapprochement, which resulted in Russia’s final break with Austria and Austria’s defeat in its 1859 conflict with France.

Could we imagine such flexibility today? Could we suppose that over the course of two or three years, Russia would be capable of swapping its current partnership with China for an alliance with the United States? Or that the European Union, as it faces increasing pressure from the United States, would re-orient itself towards strategic cooperation with Moscow? Such scenarios look improbable at best and absurd at worst. Alas, the leaders of great powers today do not have the flexibility that is absolutely necessary to maintain a stable multipolar world order.

At the end of our short historical sketch, we can ask another curious question. Why did the 1814–1815 Congress of Vienna result in a stable European order, while the 1919 Treaty of Versailles became meaningless 15 years after it was signed? How is it possible that the members of the anti-France coalition were capable of magnanimity towards their former enemy, while members of the anti-German coalition were not? Was it because George Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Woodrow Wilson were more stupid or bloodthirsty than Alexander I, Klemens von Metternich, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand?

Of course not. It is just that the Concert of Europe was created by autocratic monarchs, while the Treaty of Versailles was designed by leaders of western democracies. The latter were far more dependent on national public sentiment than their predecessors were a century earlier. And the public sentiments of nations that had experienced four years of suffering, unprecedented privations, and losses demanded that the Germans be punished in the harshest and most uncompromising manner. And this is what the victors ultimately did, thus planting the seeds of the global carnage that was to come.

Clearly, over the last hundred years, politicians have grown even more dependent on the smallest fluctuations in public opinion. Unfortunately, the chances of seeing new examples of Alexander’s magnanimity and Metternich’s insight today are slim. To paraphrase Pushkin, we can say that “political populism and multipolarity are two things incompatible.”

The “Gangsters” and “Molls” of the Multipolar World

A famous cliché in international relations (attributed to a variety of authors, from Otto von Bismarck to Stanley Kubrick) states that on the global stage, large states act as gangsters and small states act as molls. The concept of a multipolar world is geared towards the “gangsters” and ignores the “molls.” Not every state and not even every coalition of states has the right to claim the status of a “pole” in the international system.

The adherents of multipolarity believe that most contemporary states are simply incapable of independently ensuring their own security and economic growth, not to mention making a significant contribution to shaping the new world order[4]. Thus, in both the current and future multipolar world, only a handful of countries have “true sovereignty,” while others sacrifice this sovereignty in the name of security, prosperity, or even plain survival.[5]

At the time of the Concert of Europe, the “gangsters” could successfully control the “molls” who depended on them, and the number of “molls” was relatively small. Two centuries later, the situation has changed drastically. Today, there are about 200 states that are members of the UN, and then there are unrecognized states and non-state actors. Therefore, the majority of members of international relations in the new multipolar world has been assigned the unenviable role of extras or observers.

Even if we ignore the moral and ethical deficiency of such a world order, there are grave doubts that such a project is feasible, especially given mounting problems in current military, political, and economic unions and the sharp rise of nationalism that affects both great powers and small and medium-sized countries.

The adherents of multipolarity probably think that the “poles” of the new world order will form naturally, that the “molls” will rush into the arms of neighbouring “gangsters” out of love rather than by coercion. That is, they will be driven by geographic proximity, economic expediency, common history, cultural similarities, etc. Unfortunately, historical experience would suggest the contrary. French-speaking Flanders has for centuries fended off the obtrusive patronage of Paris; Portugal has for an equally long time striven to distance itself from the geographically and culturally close Spain; and for some reason, Vietnam has failed to appreciate the advantages of belonging to China’s “pole.” It would be best to not even recall the state of relations between Russia and once “brotherly” Ukraine.

If the “molls” are forced to turn to the “gangsters” for protection, they clearly prefer “gangsters” from a remote neighbourhood rather than from their own street. Generally speaking, such preferences are sometimes somewhat logical. And if this is the case, then “poles” can only be formed “voluntarily under duress,” as the Russian saying goes – and in the 21st century, such foundations have dubious stability.

One gets the impression that the Russian discourse about the impending multipolar world confuses the notions of legal equality (“equal rights”) and actual equality (identity as the ultimate equality). States cannot actually be equal to each other: their size, resources, and capabilities, as well as their economic, military, and political potential, differ too greatly. Yet the apparent inequality of states does not necessarily mean that they should also have different basic rights. There is the principle of all citizens being equal before the law regardless of the differences in social status, property, education, and talents.

Old Bipolarity Billed as New Multipolarity

The differences in the current situation compared to that of the early 19th century are too obvious to attempt to restore the “classical” multipolarity. It would seem that, in one way or another, the adherents of multipolarity also realize this. If we take a closer, more careful look at the discourse in Russia today describing the “new” multipolarity of the 21st century, the magnificent multipolar façade often disguises the same steel-and-concrete bipolar structure of global politics, reflecting the Soviet mentality that has not been entirely overcome.

The “new bipolarity” manifests in all kinds of ways. Consider, for instance, the “East–West” dichotomy, a confrontation between “maritime” and “continental” powers, a clash between the “liberal” and “conservative” worlds, or even the opposition between the United States and the rest of the world. Whatever its external manifestation, the essence remains the same, like in the old Soviet joke about a worker from a factory manufacturing prams who complains, “Whenever I try to assemble a pram, I end up with a Kalashnikov.”

We cannot say with absolute certainty that the world will never go back to the bipolarity of the 20th century. In any case, the possible bipolarity that could result from the impending U.S.–China confrontation is more realistic than going back to the multipolarity of the 19th century. Nevertheless, attempts to combine elements of multipolarity and bipolarity in a single structure is a doomed enterprise. These two approaches to global politics are too different in their basic paradigms. Multipolarity and bipolarity are two radically different worldviews.

Classical multipolarity cannot have any rigid divisions between those who are right and those who are wrong, between friend and foe, between black and white. Foes may prove to be friends, those in the right and those in the wrong may swap places, and there is an entire range of shades of grey in the spectrum between black and white. A bipolar picture, on the contrary, always tends to be Manichean, when friends are always in the right and foes are invariably in the wrong. Friends are forgiven whatever they do, and foes are never forgiven. The notion of the collective West that is popular in Russia is also a vestige of the Soviet mentality. In no way does this fit in with the declared “multipolar” picture of the world, but it is very convenient for constructing the opposing notion of a “collective non-West.”

Familiar stereotypes of the Soviet mentality stubbornly bring us back to bipolar logic and deprive us of the opportunity to take advantage of managing a complex multipolar construction even in those instances when such opportunities present themselves. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Russian policies in the Middle East are one such exception, as it is the Donald Trump administration that has been caught in the trap of a bipolar worldview there, while Russia, having taken the preferred position of regional referee, has thus far succeeded in manoeuvring among the various regional players. Russia has been less successful in the Russia–China–India triangle that Yevgeny Primakov had once promoted as the foundation of a multipolar world: the equilateral Russia–China–India triangle is slowly but steadily evolving towards a military alliance between Russia and China.

Overcoming the remnants of bipolar logic is a necessary but insufficient condition for a successful foreign policy. It would seem that the successful use of multipolar approaches promises tactical successes at best. Strategic victories are possible if multipolarity is abandoned in favour of multilateralism.

Searching for a Balance in Open Systems

If we agree with the principle of states having equal rights in the international system, we should abandon the fundamentals of multipolarity. Directly or indirectly, multipolarity assumes that in the future world there will always be states or groups of states with special rights. That is, the privileges of force will be enshrined, just like the victors of World War II enshrined their privileges when establishing the UN system in 1945. However, the experience of 1945 cannot be repeated in 2018: today’s great powers have neither the authority nor the legitimacy nor the unanimity of the countries that had made the decisive contribution to victory in the bloodiest war in human history.

For the international system of the future to be stable and durable, there should be no radical differences between the victors and the vanquished, between “regular” and “privileged” members. Otherwise, any change in the global balance of power (and such changes will occur with increasing speed) will necessitate adjustments to the system, and we will thus go through crises over and over again.

How can we talk about consolidating the privilege of power in the new multipolar structure if this power is diffusing at breakneck pace before our very eyes? In the time of the Congress of Vienna, power was hierarchical and had a limited number of parameters. Today, traditional rigid hierarchies of power are rapidly losing the significance they once enjoyed, not because old components of national power no longer work, but because multiple new components are emerging in parallel.

For instance, South Korea cannot be considered a great power in the traditional sense, because it cannot ensure its own security without help from others. However, if we look at the wearable electronics sector, South Korea is more than a great power; in fact, it is one of two “super powers.” South Korea’s Samsung is the only company in the world that successfully competes with U.S. company Apple in the global smartphone market. From the point of view of the country’s global brand, its flagship Samsung Galaxy S9+ carries more weight than Russia’s flagship S-500 Prometey missile system.

Non-material measures of a state’s power are gaining ever greater importance. A country’s reputation, its “credit history” – which is so easy to undermine yet so hard to restore – is becoming progressively more valuable. Stalin’s famous phrase about the Pope (“The Pope? How many divisions does he have?”) looks more like political antiquity than political cynicism.

If the notion of a state’s power is becoming more equivocal and takes into account an increasing number of parameters, then we inevitably face the problem of determining the new balance of power in global politics. Determining a multipolar balance of power is in general an extremely difficult enterprise even when the number of parameters used is rigidly set. For instance, what is a stable multipolar nuclear balance? What is multilateral nuclear containment? When the number of power parameters tends to infinity, the task of building a stable multipolar balance becomes impossible to solve. Attempting to balance an open system with a permanently growing number of independent variables is the same as attempting to transform a living cell into a dead crystal.

Multilateralism Instead of Multipolarity

A stable system of global politics assumes it will not be entirely fair to more powerful players, as it limits the interests of those players in favour of weaker players and the stability of the system as a whole. Any federative state redistributes resources from prosperous regions to depressive ones: prosperous regions are forced to pay more to preserve the integrity and stability of the federation. Or consider, for instance, that traffic rules in cities are far more restrictive to cutting-edge Lamborghini supercars. Lamborghini drivers are forced to sacrifice most of their “automotive sovereignty” to ensure safety and order on the road.

The future of the world order (if we are talking about order and not a game without rules or a “war of all against all”) should be sought in multilateralism instead of multipolarity. The two terms sound similar, but they differ in meaning. Multipolarity involves building a new world order on the basis of power, while multilateralism is based on interests. Multipolarity consolidates the privileges of leaders, while multilateralism creates additional opportunities for underachievers. A multipolar world is built from blocs that balance each other, while a multilateral world is built from complementary regimes. A multipolar world develops by periodically adjusting the balance of power, while a multilateral world develops by accumulating elements of mutual dependency and creating new levels of integration.

Unlike the multipolar world model, the multilateral model cannot rely on past experience, and in that respect it might appear idealistic and virtually unfeasible. However, individual elements of the model have already been tried in the practice of international relations. For instance, the principles of multilateralism — placing the interests of small and medium-sized countries in primary focus, prioritizing the common regulatory legal balance over the situational interests of the participants in the system — formed the basis for the construction of the European Union. Even though the European Union is not in great shape today and individual parts of this complex machine are clearly malfunctioning, hardly anyone would deny that it remains the most successful integration project implemented in the modern world.

For those who do not like the experience of European integration, it is worth looking for sprouts of new multilateralism elsewhere. Examples include the BRICS+ project and the “Community of Common Destiny.” Both initiatives attempt to avoid the over-complication, exclusivity, and rigidity of the European project by offering potential participants more diverse cooperation options. However, should these projects be successful, they will not bring the world any closer to “classical” multipolarity; on the contrary, they will take the world farther away from it.

The international community will have to somehow restore the regulatory framework of global politics that has been gravely undermined over recent decades, search for complex balances of interests at the regional and global levels, and build flexible regimes that regulate individual dimensions of global communication. Powerful states will have to make major concessions so that multilateral arrangements will be attractive for weak actors. A clean break will have to be made with the centuries-old relics of outdated mentalities, dubious historical analogies, and attractive yet meaningless geopolitical constructions.

The world of the future will be far more complex and contradictory than we thought it would be just 20 years ago. It will have a place for a multitude of diverse participants in global politics interacting in various formats. Multipolarity should go down in history as a justified intellectual and political reaction to the arrogance, haughtiness, and various excesses of the hapless builders of a unipolar world — nothing more and nothing less. With the twilight of the unipolar world, its opposite – multipolarity – will inevitably face its twilight as well.

First published in our partner RIAC

  • [1] Primakov E. M. International Relations on the Eve of the 21st Century: Problems and Prospects. International Affairs. 1996 (10), pp. 3–13.
  • [2] Curiously, at the turn of the century, the idea of multipolarity gained such traction in both the United States and Europe that Assistant to President George W. Bush for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice found it necessary to publish a lengthy article with detailed criticism of multipolarity as a concept of rivalry and potential conflicts, a concept that distracts humanity from tackling common constructive objectives. See: http://globalaffairs.ru/number/n_1564.
  • [3] Seventh Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Qian Qichen stated that the world is still in a transitionary phase, and that the new model had not yet been completely shaped. However, an outline of international relations with one superpower and several great powers locked in relations of mutual dependency and strife has already emerged. This is the starting point of the system’s evolution to multipolarity. See Suisheng Zhao. Beijing’s Perceptions of the International System and Foreign Policy Adjustment after the Tiananmen Incident. / Suisheng Zhao (ed.), Chinese Foreign Policy. Pragmatism and Strategic Behavior. New York: East Gate Book, 2004, p. 142.
  • [4] Dugin A. G. Theory of a Multipolar World. Moscow, 2013, pp. 16–19.
  • [5] President Vladimir Putin quite eloquently expounded this view of the world in his speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2, 2017, “To reiterate, there are not so many countries that have sovereignty. Russia treasures its sovereignty, but not as a toy. We need sovereignty to protect our interests and to ensure our own development. India has sovereignty… However, there are not so many countries like India in the world. That is true. We should simply bear this in mind. India is one such country and so is China. I will not enumerate them all: There are other countries, too, but not many.”
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International Law

Looking for safety in security studies: Is it relevant to discuss climate change’s impact on UNSC?

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In December 2021, Security Council failed to adopt the draft resolution to integrate the climate security-related threat into the United Nations conflict-prevention strategies. The resolution was aimed to help the forum facing the risk of conflict that will escalate because of social issues affected by climate change such as, drought, flood, soil degradation, and sea level rising that create social-security problems such as water and food scarcity and large-scale people displacement (United Nations, December 2021).

               Through that resolution, it is expected that the concern of climate change and social-security issues that are affected by it would start to be seen as intersectional and contributing to conflict and affecting the security itself. As can be observed in the displacement and refugees issue in South Sudan that pushed 500.000 Dinka ethnic people from their homes and escalated the ethnic conflict between Dinka and Nuer. Other phenomena such as sea level rising also affect island state and their neighbor state which will get affected by refugees that try to get into their country.

               Even though the climate-related threat is classified as a multiplier factor, its impact on the social security issue is real and has the potential to escalate the conflict that risks the security of thousands of citizens. Nevertheless, by the rejection of those draft resolutions from India and Russia, and abstain from China, Security Council then must reject the resolution because of the votes of a permanent member. India, as the member that rejects the draft, bases its rejection on the functionality of the Security Council which is to deescalate the conflict and discuss the climate impact is not a proper forum because there is another forum that has focused on that issue already (Security Council Report, 2021). But, is it necessary to discuss climate change and its impact on Security Council? Is it relevant for climate issues to be discussed in a security forum?

Why should it be UNSC, as a security Forum, to discussed it?

               As a forum and institution in the UN that has been mandated to keep the security and peace, the advocacy of climate adaptation policy the have several urgencies to be integrated into UNSC talks. First, quoting from the UNSC mandate in chapter IV, “The Security Council may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security (United Nations, n.d.). Even though that mandate is written in the ‘Pacific Settlement of Disputes’ section, those article is not referring to clauses that limit the situation contribute to the conflict on human activities directly, such as the impact of climate change. Therefore, the impact of climate change should be addressed by the Security Council forum to prevent disputes from escalating into a real conflict that threatened the social-security issue.

               Second, regarding the hierarchical decision-making in United Nations, Security Council has the authority to enforce more binding and interventionist resolutions than other forums such as General Assembly that the socio-economy issues with more loose output. Connecting the dots, the conditions which have been faced by climate change issue in international meetings is slower than what should be expected in creating an assertive and ambitious response, especially when the issues are in intersection with other issues such as conflict escalation. Regarding this situation, the Security council, as the dominant institution that establishes the dominant discourse on international security, has a central role in directing the climate change urgency in international society, since the security discourse is always paramount in international relations.

UNSC as a dominant discourse-maker in security studies

               It can not be denied that United Nations is an organization characterized by monolithic production of power in the implementation of its agenda, with human rights and human security as the dominant narrative in its every decision-making process (Shepherd, 2008, p. 392). This character could be seen through the UN Charter in 1945, particular in article 24.1, “Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf” (UN 1945, Article 24.1). Those article referring Security Council as the highest authority institutionally and legislative in the UN through its resolutions. And in the name of security, Security Council has extensive authority in drawing the objective of every resolution and mission. Even though it needs to be questioned on what purposes those objectives are being directed.

               The power that Security Council had in concepting how security will be achieved in international relations could be reflected to what Buzan (1998) wrote as the process of securitization. Regarding Buzan, the creation of the security concept is the key to legitimizing the use of force, mobilizing international society, and using the special means to intervene in other states’ business in the name of handling existential threats which threaten the existence of states and their sovereignty (Buzzan, 1998). To put it simply, labeling a situation as security will frame that situation as emergency and apolitical. As the implication, issue that had been labeled as a security threat will get punctuation and urgency to exterminate the threat at the institution level, such as the different perspectives of the member which will get in the way of its agenda realization. In this process of securitization, the problem of climate change creates a great leap in its progress to meet its drives the securitization process.

               Nevertheless, the discourse-making of security above is still limited to traditional security conception which refers to the military aspect of security. This limitation can be seen through the articulation of security and its threat by permanent members of the Security Council. India, Russia, and China reject the discussion of the draft resolution because they are afraid that international society will intervene their sovereignty, as what could have happened in Chapter VII (Security Council Report, 2021). In addition, the uncertainty of scientific research about climate and the connection with security means also become another narrative from the three countries to reject the draft.

               The traditional security approach that still dominates shows the failure Security Council, as a security forum for states, to recognize the issue to create a safe environment for its people. All this is due to, first, traditional security studies, on the basic level, are not trying to solve the root of the disputes and war, however, it only focuses on how to avoid the damage that could be achieved by parties involved in the disputes (Walt, 1991, p. 212). Second, the traditional security studies too focused on keeping the concept of the states and its existence, so that it becomes oblivious about the people within the states as the constituent of the state also gives the legitimacy to the state’s sovereignty (Waltz, 1991, p. 213). Those two characteristics of traditional security studies show how security is too limited in the military aspect and lost its ability and orientation to keep the people feel safe.

Stepping out of the old conception

               It can not be denied that the impact of climate change is getting worst every day, even if it is affected the most in several conflicts and disputes in international relations. The urgency for the Security Council to discuss the impact of climate change on conflict escalation is the embodiment of awareness of the need for safety than the conception of security itself.

               As a disclaimer, of course, there is risk and compromise in states’ sovereignty when we try to securitize the climate issue in a security forum. Last time, when international society try to securitize human right issue, US used those narratives to disarm and intervene in the oil field of Iran in 2002. This threat is evident and inevitable because security is the paramount issue in international relations, and every issue that is labeled as a threat of it will expand the authority of states’ to get rid of it, even if it violates others’ sovereignty.

               The only way for security studies to avoid the worsening failure in addressing the issue of security that have been affected by climate issue is to step out of the traditional conception of security, and its rigidity in the game of tough-man through its war-game strategies, while failed to see the essence of the states and the security that we try to create and establish, is the safety of people within the states.

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Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as New Instrument in Nuclear Disarmament Process

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On June 21–23, Vienna will host a historic event in the field of nuclear disarmament – ​​the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The entry into force of this treaty in January 2021 became a long-awaited signal that demonstrated the determination of the UN member states to take concrete measures to outlaw nuclear weapons.

This was a significant moment for Kazakhstan, which in the past experienced detrimental consequences of nuclear tests. As President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted in his speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, “today Kazakhstan is an example and a role model for the whole world as a responsible state that voluntarily abandoned its nuclear-missile arsenal and closed the world’s largest nuclear test site.”

For half a century, our land suffered atmospheric, ground, and underground tests. This impacted the health of about 1.5 million Kazakhs living near the test site with an area of ​​​​more than 18,000 square kilometres. The consequences of radiation are felt to this day.

On the initiative of Kazakhstan, the closing date of the Semipalatinsk test site – August 29 – was declared in 2009 by the UN General Assembly the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Emphasizing the symbolism of this date, in 2019 Kazakhstan submitted to the UN Secretariat an instrument for ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Kazakhstan voluntarily abandoned the 4th largest nuclear arsenal in the world, which it inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in 1993 joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a state that does not possess nuclear weapons. Let me note, that the TPNW was developed in support of the NPT and fully complements its objective of strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the peaceful use of atomic energy and wider international security.

In fact, TPNW reflects the dissatisfaction of most UN member states with the disregard by nuclear countries of their obligations on nuclear disarmament, enshrined in several international treaties and documents, including Article VI of the NPT. For this reason, we believe that the treaty should be mentioned in the Final Document of the forthcoming NPT Review Conference in August 2022.

The Treaty establishes several mandatory legal initiatives in the field of nuclear disarmament. For example, nuclear weapons are considered illegal for the first time in human history. Secondly, the production, testing, acquisition, transfer, storage and deployment of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use of threats to use them, are prohibited.

A nuclear-weapon country can join the TPNW if it agrees to destroy its nuclear weapons in accordance with legally binding, verifiable, time-specific plans. Similarly, a country hosting nuclear weapons can join if it agrees to remove them. The Treaty does not prescribe specific timeframes or disarmament measures, as they are planned to be approved by the member states following the First Conference of the TPNW.

Kazakhstan’s active participation gave impetus to the organisation of the First Conference of the TPNW. The most important contribution of our country to this process was acting as a facilitator of substantive solutions. In particular, at the initiative of Kazakhstan and Kiribati (which suffered 39 American and British nuclear weapon test), a working group was created to develop proposals on the issue of positive obligations in accordance with Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty related to providing support for victims of nuclear testing and use of nuclear weapons, as well as environmental rehabilitation.

The positive obligations under the TPNW refer to the nodal aspects and are focused on eliminating damage from the use and testing of nuclear weapons in the past, as well as preventing possible damage in the future.

The medium-term goal of this initiative on the adoption of positive obligations is to establish an International Trust Fund to finance projects related to victim assistance and environmental restoration.

A specific mechanism is being discussed for identifying sources of funding (from TPNW member-states and non-member states, NGOs, philanthropists, and individuals) for work that requires special knowledge, materials, and equipment. It is important to note that this proposal has found support among the expert community and academic circles.

I would like to note that with the financial support of Kazakhstan and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, Kazakh people affected by nuclear testing and the youth representatives from Pacific Island countries will be able to participate in the First Conference of the TPNW and share their stories from a high international rostrum to draw attention to how deplorable the consequences of the use/testing of nuclear weapons can be.

The TPNW positive obligations are of practical value for Central Asia. In accordance with Article 7 of the TPNW, states may request the assistance of other parties to the Treaty and international structures to implement the abovementioned provisions. Considering the existing problem of uranium tailing ponds in several countries of our region, this initiative would help to attract donor funds from other states and international organisations for the reclamation of tailing ponds and the implementation of preventive measures to help the population near uranium mines.

Therefore, Kazakhstan, as the only state in the CIS region that has acceded to the TPNW, is conducting systematic work in accordance with Article 12 on the universalisation of the document to expand the membership of its participants, primarily from among the countries of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ).

Let me remind that CANWFZ, established by Kazakhstan jointly with its regional neighbours through the 2006 Semipalatinsk Treaty, is the first and currently the only such zone in the Northern Hemisphere. A key addition to it was the Protocol, containing negative security assurances, which stipulates that countries possessing nuclear weapons undertake not to use them on the parties to the Treaty. In this regard, we are grateful to the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and France for completing the ratification of this important document. Last year, the foreign ministers of the states that are parties to the Treaty – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – made a joint statement on its 15th anniversary, in which they reaffirmed their unshakable commitment to its provisions and called on the United States to ratify the above-mentioned Protocol as soon as possible.

The members of nuclear-weapon-free zones around the world are at the forefront of the nuclear disarmament process. The main goals and objectives of establishing these zones are in line with the principles of the TPNW. This means that a state party to the Semipalatinsk Treaty can accede to the TPNW without assuming additional obligations. Besides, if a state that is party to the Semipalatinsk Treaty has already adopted relevant national regulatory legal acts to implement the provisions of the Semipalatinsk Treaty, then this will probably be sufficient to fulfil the obligations that the state will assume by joining the TPNW. This is confirmed by leading international NGOs and experts in the field of nuclear disarmament.

It should also be emphasized that the TPNW is gaining global popularity thanks to the efforts of civil society, which encourages governments and parliamentarians of their respective countries to accede to the Treaty. Kazakhstan welcomes the decision of several European countries (Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland), including the declared intention of NATO members (Germany and Norway), to participate as observers in the First Conference of the States Parties to the TPNW.

The Treaty is another effective platform for our efforts to build a world without nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan will continue to show an example of high responsibility to the present and future generations of humankind.

In this context, it’s worth noting the UN Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, adopted at the initiative of Kazakhstan at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in 2015. The Universal Declaration calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as the only guarantee against their use or threat of use. Last year, the resolution received a record number of 141 votes from UN member states, indicating its positive momentum. Particularly noteworthy was the support from India and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which possess nuclear weapons, as well as from Iran, which was among the co-sponsors of the resolution.

If nuclear weapons are declared to be outside of international law, the call for nuclear-weapon states to take urgent steps in the field of nuclear disarmament will increase significantly. To this end, Kazakhstan continuously encourages dialogue between nuclear countries and the TPNW supporters in order to align their views and strengthen trust between them, which is especially important given current geopolitical conditions. Such work is also being carried out within the framework of the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament and specialised platforms within the UN, including the First Committee of the General Assembly, where our country will take over the chairmanship during the 77th session.

The possibility of signing the TPNW and its entry into force have given many countries additional hope for a safer and rational world, which is currently in a serious crisis. As noted by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, with about 13,400 nuclear warheads around the world, the possibility of using nuclear weapons is more real than in the darkest days of the Cold War. The current military confrontation in Ukraine, discussions about proliferation of nuclear weapons and mutual threats to use them, raise the question about the collective vulnerability of humanity and the urgent need to ban and eliminate the deadly weapons.

The practical contribution of Kazakhstan to nuclear disarmament encourages us to continue calling on nations and governments to redouble their efforts to rid our planet of the threat of nuclear self-destruction by strengthening mutual trust. With that in mind, Kazakhstan has nominated its candidacy for the position of Vice Chair of the First Meeting of the TPNW in 2022 and Chair of the Third Meeting for 2024–2026.

We call on all states, including nuclear-weapon powers, to develop a phased plan for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, to the centenary of the UN. The proposals and agreements to achieve this goal could be reflected in the final documents of both the First Conference of the TPNW and the NPT Review Conference.

Kazakhstan realizes that there are many political and technical obstacles on the way to achieving this noble and ambitious goal. We consider it necessary to embark on a practical work in this direction.

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International Law

Ukrainian Crisis – End of the International Order?

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Three months have already passed since the Russian ‘special operation in’ or ‘invasion of’ (depends which sources you are citing) Ukraine began. As the international community tries to grasp this ‘denazification and demilitarization’ event, its causes and consequences, much has been talked but little understood about war’s potential to fundamentally change the world order—and about the way it illustrates already ongoing shifts. Yet, every aspect of the planetary balance of power, security architecture, geo-economic and geopolitical dynamics is challenged by this looming conflict.

On May 20, the Habibie Center addressed this topical issue witin its Public Lecture Series. In an event titled ‘The Ukraine Crisis and its Implications for the Global Political Chessboard’, the Jakarta-based think tank hosted Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic (Vienna, Geneva, universities of) for a public lecture on the war’s repercussions, both globally, as well as for the Asian continent and its Southeastern theatre.

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic framed his thorough analysis of the conflict by alluding to the usual pattern of “critical insight formation” around an international crisis. The ‘problem’ and its ‘solution’ are presented as two halves of the singular picture. Within this picture, the lights and shadows consist of the ‘costs’ associated with the problem, and their ‘cost distribution’. The multi-dimensional nature of Ukrainian crisis can be understood that way, too. Depending on where the problem’s centre of gravity is located—the rise of new threats in a multipolar order, the global energy crisis, the deterioration of European security structures—different costs can be identified for various stakeholders.

Clearing points at the entrée, professor stated: “the way we formulate the problem will inevitably determine our answer/s and lead the course of our action”. Hence, “today I will concentrate only on setting the questions we must ask to answer what this crisis is about”, explained professor before getting into a 40-minute questions elaboration.

Accordingly, the main historical drives, politico-military aspect, legal aspect, economic aspect, and Ideological aspect (deeper meanings) related to the war were briefly explained. In addition, questions from participants of the lecture were raised regarding future outcomes and implications on RI, and analytical conclusions were drawn making emphasis on being logical and reasonable in studying the case scenario closely. This article will present the details of the discussion following the above-mentioned points.

The first point of the discussion focused on the main historical drives attributed to the long-lasted tension between Russia and Ukraine. Starting with the concept of Competing Universalisms which rather is not Venus Vs Mars competing between the two Marses, mentioned here included the Great Schism which was in the 11th Century particularly in the year 1054 resulted in a distinction between Kyiv Russia and Rimo-Catholic Ummah and how Christianity was a tool for operationalization of religion for ideological pursue (the struggle of the center of interpretation and its peripheries. Secondly, the formation of the Political West at the age of anthropo-geographic inversion/Grand discoveries expanded and projected itself internally but also demographically. Thirdly, attributed to the Napoleonic wars, the Hitler coalition ( ‘Barbarossa’ via Ukraine) and smaller episodes such as Crimean War which lasted from 1853-56 fought between Ottomans, France, UK, and Piedmont-Sardinia Vs Russia,  European Interventionism in the years 1918-22 and the Russo-Polish humiliating war in the years 1919-21 for the Isolation of Russia as a historical constant or ad hoc policy was discussed. Finally, in this category is the three dissolutions in Eastern Europe which made Russia a last huge resource to be conquered and split.

The Second point of the discussion focused on the Politico-military aspect beginning with the astonishing lack on the side of the ‘Collective West’ critical insight about Russia’s reasons, capabilities, intentions, outreach, and lasting effects, the dangerous security experiment of conflict escalation through antagonization of Russia supported by state Adventurism univocally by European elected politicians and cheerleading intellectuals. Secondly, the ambiguity in explaining if the conflict is solely Russo-Ukraine or is it NATO and the Russian federation indirectly in addition to the periodic unclarity of the start of the tension whether it is from 2014 or 2022 supported by the question of whether it is a local conflict that escalates or global conflict that is localized? What the spillover potential or length of the extension is and notably, the US proxy war to save the Dollar’s global position or a new imperial quest of the post-soviet Russia were questions raised for a deeper analysis of the case.

Thirdly, the peculiar nature of military actions such as the historical and political background of Ukraine from Kyiv Russia to the Soviet Republic, the Ethnic, Linguistic, and Religious composite of Ukraine with the alarming GINI Index showing a high gap between the rich and poor, the increased organized crime, depopulation, regressive ta policy and poor labor and environmental standards, change of ethnic composition together with forced migration and the promise made by President Zelensky during the election on the Donbas peace reintegration pledge which had no western/US support were pointed out for further analysis. Fourthly, the huge role of media in terms of censorship, Frenzy, destruction acceleration as coined by the term ‘Pornography of number’- deeper psychologization of issues and using fear as a currency of control, boosting emotional charge, personalization, and further escalation of the conflict by feeding the negative spiral and the link between media compliance and external/sovereign national debt were mentioned.

Lastly in this section was the singularization of foreign aid to Ukraine which lacks the transparency of donors and receivers, quality and configuration of military aid, environmental hazard for fertile soils and underground waters in Ukraine, security risk for the Black Sea theatre, and Europe from diverted stockpiles were explained.

The Third point raised was the legal aspect in the eye of; firstly, the UN Charter and its spirit of collective security and indivisibility the notion of a common European home, the Geneva talks- Détente-Helsinki accord Decalogue/CSCE-(1994 Budapest summit for) OSCE in active peaceful coexistence. Secondly, the Gorbachev-Reagan talks of the 1980s disarmament and security non-expansion guarantee constant western rejection of every politico-military initiative of the post-soviet Russia, the NATO defensive alliance with the 30 years of offensive history which has 9 rounds of enlargements, the less formal but lasting partnerships with formerly neutral Eurasian states, its intervention in Europe, Asia and MENA and the continued dismissal of Russian security concerns were indicated. Thirdly, the Ukrainian neutrality and nuclear disarmament dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the Minsk accord I and II at the maidan event of 2014, and the referendum were discussed. Fourthly, the provocation of NATO/US-Ukraine Military Cooperation with equipment, training, exercises since 2014, Bio-lab activities, the presidential statement made at the Munich Security Conference in February 2022 about accession, and the credibility of ‘Unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’ Vs ‘Unprovoked invasion of Iraq’ mantra, the capacity and willingness to honor agreed international treaties. Lastly in the legal aspect was the question of war crimes which is highly selective and comprehensive.

The Fourth point was the Economic aspect, starting with an observation of the World’s most traded commodities number one being Crude oil then Natural gas and wheat on the third and fifth level respectively which the cost paid for their loss are compensated over peripheral countries and social segments within them. In addition, the temporary gain of military-industrial complex but loss for the overall world stability and security, among these were dismantling the obsolete or old military weaponry on the Ukraine soil free of charge, its replacement exclusively with the western military purchases and financed by Ukraine through its new loans, donations and lend-and-lease arrangements for which the US congress already discussed a 30 billion lend-and -lease arrangements with Ukraine on January 22, was before the conflict started. Furthermore, confiscation of overseas deposits and private property and the notion of secondary sanctions versus friendly and unfriendly nations made sanctions, fragmentation of the global monetary system for with the Petro-Ruble and Russia’s Foreign currency reserves increase and the yuan perceived as a world’s reserve currency, stagflation that is inflation with decreased industrial output and the end of the debt-driven economies lead to De-dollarization. Lastly, the economic aspects of energy security in terms of the Pan Euro Mediterranean (PEM) shift and the post-Paris treaty environmental concerns, preferential prices for the friendly countries competitive on the global market, and food security in terms of widening the gap, de-urbanization, insecurity and hunger, social unrest were indicated to have a collective impact on the current situation.

 Coming to the deeper meanings was the Ideological aspect. Firstly, the crisis of capitalism if it is the west losing its intellectual capacity to offer and lead in organizational constructive ability en march towards the future self-realization metaphorically described as Instagram-isation of life and TikTok-isation of intellect. Secondly, the question of whether westernization of Eastern Europe is possible without de-anti-fascism and anti-Russian rhetoric was forwarded for analysis and in-depth thinking. Thirdly, answering the millenniums-long pattern of the history of mankind is seen as a story of eternal competition over territorial /material, all governed by the alienated ruler)i.     Bolshevik revolution (rule of 99% attempt, non-territorial principle) with the formation of the Universal Organization 1945 and the NAM (Bandung 1955/Belgrade 1961) as furthering of the egalitarian and emancipatory non-territorial idea ii. Fascism/Nazism (Imperialism optimized the idea of material and territorial, while Nazism radicalized it) iii, Glasnost/Perestroika: Dismantling of Warsaw Pact/dissolution of USSR as a triumph of the idea of non-material and non-territorial, and the significant departure from the rule traditionally governing international conduct – might make right  (Soviet Russians pulled back undefeated without a single bullet fired for over 2,000 km, dismantled its empire and recognized its former republics as sovereign states without preconditions, without any international conference nor big power written guarantees) iv, Transhumanism (Great Reset, Depopulation) – the territorial and material idea (of humans without the spiritual dimension, reduced on bio-hackable animal/Bionicle connected to a global IoT network for control and commercial end). Fourthly, the end of white man supremacy referred to the Anglo-German clash with Slaves leading to the fragmentation of the Slavic state and intra-Slavic Guernica. Lastly in this section was the western recession of democracy, its vitality, and future promise asking why the leading western intellectuals obey and the crisis of the leadership and the voters’ apathy.  

Followed by the analytical questions left for the audience to further make logical and reasonable study and researching before speaking on the surface knowledge or relying on misinformation in different social and public media, predictions of the future outcomes and Implications for the Republic of Indonesia were discussed. Among points on the future outcome, an inquiry was put if this leads to global realignment or de-coupling and three possibilities were put as follows:

a. Destruction of Ukraine and the increasing possibility of nuclear war, or the sincere Peace talks;     Statesmanship of the Metternich Concert of Europe vs. short-sightedness of the Versailles

b. Meanings for Asia-Pacific: Measuring the pan-Asia destabilizing momentum and RIC format – and outcome of its triangulation

c. Implication of Inter-Muslim debate (Islam and modernity): for the ‘core’ Muslim world MENA and Implications for the ‘peripheral’, non-Arab Muslim world.

Furthermore, the Implications for the Republic of Indonesia were tentative proposals for the MFA as to the urgent need to reform the UN, and ASEAN in aspects of neighborhood and border disputes. However, neutrality was not indicated to be a good thing as the country must always take sides according to the rule of international law, the Charter, and the Spirit of the Charter. And in the event of intra-Asian military escalation and/or other severe disruptions and asymmetric threats.

Summarized above in different aspects and future outcomes the lecture was entirely focused on showing directions and pointing out important intellectual and logical phenomena to analyze the ongoing war and the outcomes of the world order. Accordingly, a usual pattern with every crisis was discussed to follow which begins with Critical insight formation of both the problem and the answer to it. Analyzing costs of the crisis and distribution of the costs need to be sorted out to reach a conclusion and a solution.

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