Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti’s Man Pointing extends his finger accusingly. But where is he pointing, where exactly, in what discernible direction and toward whom or what in particular? At one level, these are silly or unfair questions. Still, at another oft-ignored and more penetrating intellectual level, these same questions might represent fruitful queries.
Taken as metaphor, the presumed object of any such artistic “accusation” could prove well worth discovering.
A preliminary answer must be made ready and available, reliably at hand. In principle, at least, this sort of artistic indirection could begin to lead us beyond the narrowly ad hominem assessments of day-to-day Washington gossip and beyond the usual appraisals of a largely rancorous interest. Conspicuously, it could give rise to assorted creative hypothesesabout world politics and collective survival.
Without such hypotheses or tentative scientific explanations, Americans – and especially their dissembling president – will continually fail to look anywhere beyond the “tip of the iceberg;” that is, behind the narrowly episodic daily news. That would mean, among other unwelcome outcomes: (1) experiencing endlessly incremental assaults by disjointed arguments and unhelpful gossip; and (2) not experiencing any authentically meaningful analytic learning .
Several serious issues are involved in this assessment. Any such prospectively lethal failure would prevent us from creating (3) a more tolerable system of international relations and (derivatively) (4) a more sustainable US foreign policy. Ultimately, this particularly intolerable kind of failure should be prevented at all costs.
Some pertinent observations are now plain and unassailable. Ideally, all of our national leaders should begin at the beginning. World politics, inter alia, is most immutably and consequentially a system.
There is more. In all geopolitical struggles for power, everything is overlapping, intersecting or interpenetrating. For the United States, the critically salient issues arising within these complex configurations are not ones of personality, party, partisanship or ideology. Rather, they are factors that reflect various broad-based aspects of a universal human behavior.
Such factors can be successfully challenged and managed, not by any usual manipulations of public sentiment (i.e., propaganda or “public relations”), but by more genuinely diligent applications of “mind.”
Always, truth is commendable, and not just “in principle.” Here, truth, exculpatory and self-fulfilling, can bestow multiple advantages. True, we are disturbingly far from displaying what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called “high thinking.” Nonetheless, depending upon specific assignments of meaning, or definition, we may still stand some reasonable chance of achieving a partial or residual “redemption.”
There is more. Before any mind or intellect-based rescues could be taken seriously, Americans will require more than distressingly shrill screams of collective encouragement What will be required is a new-found or perhaps even resurrected respect for science and reason. To be sure, as current examples, Iranian nuclearization, North Korean threats, climate change and generally imperiled human survival are calculably real problems.
They are anything but “fake news.”
In essence, America’s increasingly perilous place in world politics can never be secured by a willfully anti-intellectual president, one who conspicuously loathes literally any dispassionate, and systematic approach to problem solving.
Conceptually, we will need to begin our pertinent analyses at the beginning. This means, among other things, with the individual human being, with the world system’s most readily recognizable and determinative microcosm. Quite plausibly, this “little world” is the authentic object of Swiss artist Giacometti’s tell-tale finger pointing.
Some obligations never change.
Accordingly, the singular individual represents the core foundation of all politics, whether national or global.
From the specific standpoint of the United States, the questions that most seriously bedevil foreign policy decision-making are not fundamentally about Trump, Putin, Assad, Erdogan, Kim Jung Un, China, Russia, the Middle East, immigration, aggression, nuclear arms racing, nuclear war, bipolarity vs. multipolarity, barrier walls, elections, identifiable crimes or misdemeanors, etc. Intractably, these personalities and issues appear “up front” in our daily news summaries or appraisals – and are obviously of very great significance – but they are still mere reflections of what is deeply underlying. While seemingly urgent in their own right, these distractions are the most visible “symptoms” of much more complex world system “pathologies.”
It is these underlying “diseases,” and not their multiple and tangible symptoms, that should now galvanize refined analytic attention.
As with any such carefully planned tasks, true learning must have its correct (and revered) place. In terms of classic western philosophy, we should think here of Plato’s long-famous parable of the cave, an instructive tale still told routinely to first year undergraduates in order to illustrate certain still-timeless life lessons. Most valuable here would be the core Platonic distinction between “reality” and variously dissembling “shadows” of reality.
There is a more than reasonable argument for offering such distinctions in present-day American society and politics.
“Art,” offered Pablo Picasso, “is a lie that can tell us the truth.” In this regard, certain elements of truth may still lie latent in the finger-pointing representations of Alberto Giacometti. Most significantly, these elements could reveal that the effective shape of global politics (the relevant macrocosm) is always contingent upon the flesh and blood expectations of singular or individual human beings.
In other words, these singular individuals represent the pertinent but protean microcosm who must ultimately give both political activity and law their calculable form.
In the end, all global politics – including the refractory and seat-of-the-pants foreign policies being fashioned by US President Donald Trump – must be recognized as reflective of something more expressly causal. This still-necessary recognition, in turn, must be based upon a more consciously theoretical understanding of the specific wants and behaviors of human beings, either singly or as parts of some determinable “collective will.” Indisputably, though the individual person is always the primal “microcosm” of any particular nation’s foreign policy decision-making, it is the collective expression of this microcosm that becomes sorely problematic and correspondingly subject to assorted forms of “misuse.”
There is no shortage of apt examples. For appropriately historic and present-day instances, we may recall together the 1934 Nuremberg gatherings of the Third Reich and Donald Trump’s contemporary “rallies.” In examining each worrisome case, what matters most is not the specific content of any political speech, past or future, but rather the reassuringly common warmth of some surrounding “mass.” The fact that what is being rhythmically chanted at all such rancorous gatherings is plainly nonsense (Trump rallies) or overtly genocidal (Nuremberg rallies) is pretty much beside the point.
What truly matters here is that individual human thinking is no longer required (indeed, it generally becomes a despised object or an object of collective execration) and that individual responsibility can quickly be swallowed up in its entirety by a well- orchestrated “herd.”
“Intellect rots the brain,” said Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels in 1934.
“I love the poorly educated” said 2016 presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.
For the United States, adopting a more distinctly cosmopolitan orientation could help matters, but an antecedent question must first be posed and then correctly answered: From what available intellectual font could such an indispensable vision of human “oneness” actually be drawn? In an American nation encouraged by both its prevailing culture and its crushing politics to loath intellect (e.g., President Trump never reads a single book – any book), even the most vaunted universities are unlikely to offer some suitable platform for transformation.
It’s not bewildering. In today’s United States, even higher education has become commoditized. And commodities, as everyone is well aware, exist only to be bought and sold.
In these United States, it’s all about commerce – not always for its own sake, but sometimes for the sake of individual self-esteem or what ordinary street hooligans would call “respect.”
The Talmud reminds us all: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.” Yet, we are now left for policy guidance with only the skeletal structures of a desperately-needed cosmopolitanism, that is, with only the bitter residue of what is genuinely needed. This dissembling president, ignoring the vital presence of system, has a conveniently misleading name for this trickling residue of meaningful thought.
By ignoring that everything in world politics and global economics is interconnected, he disingenuously calls such posture “America First.”
Although cheerful and seemingly sensible, any zero-sum mantra is the manifestly negative fulfillment of a society that had once been able to take itself seriously. At its core, this slogan stands for declension, for the grim triumph of endless belligerence, balance-of-power politics, expanding chaos and a blindly destructive collective will.
For the United States, there will likely be multiple injurious consequences. Left in place by an administration that continuously fails to acknowledge its most incorrigible failings, America First (suddenly or incrementally) will injure our interests and ideals at the same time. It follows that a non-theoretic American foreign policy premised upon illogical extrapolations and a perversely proud ethos of anti-thought would produce only negative outcomes.
In more expressly technical terms, we would call such unwelcome results “force-multiplying” or “synergistic.”
By definition, in these fully predictable outcomes, the “whole” of any national injury would be greater than the aggregated sum of its policy “parts.”
Plausibly, in the aftermath of these unacceptable outcomes, Alberto Giacometti’s accusing finger will not be retracted. Instead, it will point, convincingly, at all of us. But by then it will already be too late.
For Americans imperiled by a darkly corrosive collective will, intellect or “mind” must remain uniquely vital. Among other possible contributions, intellect could reveal certain generally hidden relationships between individual human death fears and a stubbornly antagonistic nationalism. In the nineteenth century, as part of his posthumously published lecture on Politics (1896), Heinrich von Treitschke had looked insightfully beyond the daily news. Citing to Johan Gottlieb Fichte, the German historian opined prophetically: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.”
Fichte understood something here of uncommon (and incomparable) importance. It is that there can be no greater power on earth than power over death. Never.
Still earlier, correspondingly, the German philosopher Georg F. Hegel had commented famously: “The state is the march of God through the world.”
These complicated insights are not at all easy to grasp (they are intended not for the many, but for the few), but they remain stunningly important nonetheless.
“Art is the lie,” says Pablo Picasso, “that lets us see the truth.” At its core, Alberto Giacometti’s Man Pointing offers a prospectively illuminating representation of isolation and alienation, a troubling image that could help to lead us toward much deeper human understandings of war, terrorism and “collective will.” Reciprocally, such understandings could produce more thoughtful and auspicious foreign policies than what is currently being fashioned both ex nihilo and ad hoc.
“Normally,” as Giacometti’s art hints obliquely, each individual person can feel empty and insignificant apart from membership in some sort of reassuring crowd. Sometimes, the sustaining crowd is the State. Sometimes, it is the Tribe. Sometimes, as with ISIS, Hezbollah or Hamas, it is, at least ostensibly, the Faith (always, of course, the “one true faith”). Sometimes, it is the self-proclaimed “Resistance Movement,” as in certain aptly similar examples of Fatah, Islamic Jihad or certain other present-day terror groups.
Whatever the particular aggrandizing crowd of the moment, it is largely a craving to belong that threatens fatal subversions of individual human responsibility, and, correspondingly, the commission of truly monumental crimes. The cumulatively lethal consequences of such cravings is a convulsive and sometimes orgasmic triumph of “collective will.” Often, the proximate cause of these unmanaged cravings is an expanding fear of “chaos” in the persistently Westphalian state of nature.
In each and every case, the triumph of an insidious collective will must be built upon an unhidden loathing of intellect or mind. Concretely, this is the sort of seat-of-the-pants decision-making celebrating (to use Donald Trump’s own words about US foreign policy processes) “attitude, not preparation.”
Art is a “lie” that may still help us to see more clearly. “Deconstructing” Giacometti’s emaciated figure, the outlines of a pragmatic conclusion may appear, either suddenly, as a riveting “bolt from the blue,” or gradually, in certain welcome increments. It could then prod informed analysis as follows:
Unless we humans can finally learn how to temper our overwhelming and nearly-universal desire to belong at all costs, our recurrent military and political schemes to remedy war, terrorism and genocide will fail.
Without substantial augmentation by variously basic sorts of human transformation – namely, changes that could produce more expressly individualistic human beings – alltime-dishonored schemes for national security, collective security or collective defense will continue to be ineffectual.
They will remain pretty much beside the point.
They will have no helpful impact on reducing global chaos or the most grievously omnivorous forms of collective will.
Oddly enough, all this should finally be obvious. Foreign policy making requires some serious erudition. Yet, relevant learning must embrace much more than a wholly unprepared American president’s inclinations to snap back viscerally to assorted complex questions with appealingly shallow and simplistic phrases.
Before American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson had exhorted capable national governance by “high-thinking,” Thomas Jefferson, lacking both a computer and a smart-phone, still managed to read Grotius, Vattel, Pufendorf, Hobbes and Locke – together, significantly, the interwoven intellectual mainsprings of his Declaration of Independence. What does US President Donald Trump read or write?
The answer is as plain as it is incontestable. This particular answer should also be deeply humiliating; still, it is anything but that for many millions of the insistently malleable American “crowd.” The fact (unassailable) that tens of millions of Americans remain content with an effectively illiterate presidency is a symptom and reminder of a much deeper civilizational “pathology.” In possibly useful explanation, we may recall philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s unvarnished aphorism in Zarathustra: “When the throne sits on mud,” warned the 19th century German thinker, “mud sits on the throne.”
Where, today, is there any still-discernible intellectual life among the American people?
How many Americans have even any lingering acquaintance with the founding documents of the United States?
How many of our citizens expect their president to be even remotely familiar with the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?
How many Americans have ever bothered to look at such musty old documents themselves?
This president proudly introduced Duck Dynasty as keynote “speaker” at his nominating presidential convention.
This same president was recently described by US General (ret.) Michael Hayden, a former head of CIA, as “the useful idiot of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
These are not trivial observations, nor are they being seriously disputed. Furthermore, can anyone still credibly maintain that Donald Trump has even a remote inkling of what is contained in the basic literatures of law, science or history? Do many (or any) really care that he obviously knows nothing of importance, and most conspicuously wants to know nothing? Shouldn’t Americans reasonably expect, as an utterly bare minimum, a president who reads something, anything?
“In the market place,” reminds Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “nobody believes in higher men.”
US President Donald Trump came to the White House by way of the “market place.” For him, the self-demeaning world of bargaining and bullying was not just the only world he had ever known; it also represented the only world he had ever wanted to know. For his still numerous supporters, the presumed benefits of belonging to the Trump “crowd” outweigh the harder-to-measure costs of American collective insecurity.
Observed Sigmund Freud: “Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics, and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty.”
Nietzsche had longed openly for a world “beyond Good and Evil.” Freud, who preferred the term “primal horde” to Nietzsche’s “herd,” sought steadfastly to identify a habitat in which this longed-for transcendence might have sometime been applied. His discovery turned out to be his own “lived-in” world, one where Eros was not allowed to play any unifying role, and reinforced baneful or “narcissistic” identifications with an always- terrorizing mass.
“The crowd,” observed the 19th century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, “is untruth.” Nowhere has this seminal observation remained more stubbornly correct than politics, both national and global. To be fair, not every human crowd or herd or mass need be insidious or destructive. Still, ominously ongoing crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity could never take place in the absence of such primal or even primordial manifestations of collective will.
Whenever individuals join together and form a crowd or herd or mass, certain latently destructive dynamics of mob psychology become available. Among other things, this fateful combining of “membership” with destructiveness lowers each affected person’s ethical and intellectual level to a point where even the most monstrous crimes can quickly become acceptable. In the case of insistently barbarous groups, rabidly murderous behavior is not merely agreeable to the membership. It is also deeply welcome, satisfying and sometimes even palpably lascivious.
However unseemly, this behavior offers a continuous source of ghastly collective celebrations and excruciatingly private ecstasies.
On the surface, ongoing brutalities in our dissembling world order represent fragmenting struggles between warring herds. These herds, in turn, are the “natural” product of various underlying individual human needs to belong. Such critical needs are themselves derived from the most primary human want of all. This, our national leaders must finally learn to understand, is the generally unquenchable human yearning for immortality.
It goes without saying that any such difficult understanding still lies far beyond the ken of our current national leaders.
What else ought we to expect from an American president who celebrates “attitude, not preparation?”
Understood as “pathology,” our steadily growing global chaos remains only a symptom. But, as an aesthetic start to more promising and enduring national policy solutions, Giacometti’s Man Pointing may be taken as an imaginative signpost of what is most determinative in spawning war, terrorism and genocide. Sooner or later, what is deteriorating on this fragile planet will need to be “fixed” at the most “molecular” level of conflict; that is, at the ever-needful level of each individual human being.
In the end, there can be no guarantees that even more deeply thoughtful analyses of global politics could be made “operational.” Still, unless we begin to acknowledge the ubiquity and core importance of individual human longings for membership (belonging) and immortality (power over death), America’s most critical foreign policies will inevitably fail.
If, however, this crowd-oriented country could begin to place greater emphases on intellect and learning, our collective survival odds would improve correspondingly.
To make any country “great again” in isolation represents a shamelessly misconceived objective, if only because virtually all countries – including the United States – have just a partial or dubious “greatness” to revive. The only legitimate US goal, therefore, must be to make the entire world system more tolerable for all of its interdependent inhabitants. The pertinent Talmudic message here is not new. But as a conspicuous reminder: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”
America’s unavoidable task can be accomplished only after we begin to search for useable meaning and truth well beyond the daily news. Giacometti’s emaciated figure points not only at world leaders of one generation or another, but more widely at millennia of individual and collective human error. Without a willingness to finally understand the rudimentary human bases of America’s “collective will,” such evident disregard for intellect or “mind” could produce once-unimaginable levels of chaos.
definition, therefore, such a primary willingness is now indispensable.
 In this connection, recall the unchallengeable observation of Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature, no matter whom….”
 Such “democratic” screams would no doubt have horrified the Founding Fathers of the United States. Nurtured by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and the religion of John Calvin, the Fathers began their Constitutional deliberations with the core notion that an American citizen must inevitably be an unregenerate being who has to be continually and strictly controlled. Fearing democracy as much as any form of leadership tyranny, Elbridge Gerry spoke openly of democracy as “the worst of all political evils,” while William Livingston opined: “The people have been and ever will be unfit to retain the exercise of power in their own hands.” George Washington, as presiding officer at the Constitutional Convention, sternly urged delegates not to produce a document to “please the people,” while Alexander Hamilton – made newly famous by the currently popular Broadway musical – expressly charged America’s government “to check the imprudence of any democracy.”
 For the crime of aggression under international law, see: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, adopted by the UN General Assembly, Dec. 14, 1974. U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 UN GAOR, Supp (No. 31), 142, UN Doc A/9631 (1975) reprinted in 13 I.L.M., 710 (1974).
 For authoritative early accounts by this author of nuclear war effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018).
 For earlier but still useful comparisons of polarity in world politics, by this author, See: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4, December 1973, pp. 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.
 This includes international law or the law of nations. such law remains a “vigilante” system, or “Westphalian” law. The historic reference here is to the Peace Of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War, and created the now still-existing decentralized, or self-help, state system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.
 “Theory is a net,” observes the German poet Novalis, “and only those who cast, can catch.” This apt metaphor was embraced by philosopher of science Karl Popper as the epigraph to his classic Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934).
 In modern philosophy, the evident origin of this useful term lies in Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps still more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Significantly, Goethe also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenerary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948), and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).
 This brings to mind the closing query of Agamemnon in The Oresteia by Aeschylus: “Where will it end? When will it all be lulled back into sleep, and cease, the bloody hatreds, the destruction”?
 The concept of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is a more recent variant – has never been more than a facile metaphor. Further, it has never had anything to do with any calculable equilibrium. As such a balance is always a matter of individual and more-or-less subjective perceptions, adversary states may never be sufficiently confident that strategic circumstances are “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, as each side must perpetually fear that it will be “left behind,” the search for balance continually produces wider insecurity and disequilibrium.
 Although composed in the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers an illuminating vision of chaos in world politics. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:” During chaos, a condition which Hobbes identifies as a “time of War,” it is a time “…where every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the time of writing, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings -because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons.
 Consider, in this regard, the relevant observation of Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”
 Says Emmerich de Vattel, in his The Law of Nations (1758), “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”
 In more complete citation: “The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth….We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is a difficult to comprehend Nature, it is harder to grasp the Essence of the State….The State is the march of God through the world….” See: See: Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, as quoted by Karl R Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), vol. 2, p. 31.
 Ironically, whether described in the Old Testament or in other sources of ancient Western thought, chaos is as much a source of human betterment as of declension. In essence, it is that which prepares the world for all things, both sacred and profane. Further, as its conspicuous etymology reveals, chaos represents the yawning gulf or gap wherein nothing is as yet, but also where all civilizational opportunity must inevitably originate. Appropriately, the great German poet Hölderlin observed: “There is a desert sacred and chaotic which stands at the roots of the things and which prepares all things.” Even in the pagan ancient world, the Greeks thought of such a desert as logos, which indicates to us that it was presumed to be anything but starkly random or without conceivable merit.
 Apropos of Thomas Hobbes’ argument that the state of nature is worse among individuals than among states, the philosopher Spinoza suggested that “…a commonwealth can guard itself against being subjugated by another, as a man in the state of nature cannot do.” See: A.G. Wernham, ed., The Political Works, Tractatus Politicus, iii, II; Clarendon Press, 1958, p. 295.
 We may usefully recall here Jean Jacques Rousseau’s timeless warning about intellectual responsibility in his The Social Contract: “I warn the reader that this essay requires to be read very seriously, and that I am unacquainted with any art which can make the subject clear to those who will not bestow on it their serious attention.”
 Freud was always darkly pessimistic about the United States, which he felt was “lacking in soul” and was a place of great psychological misery or “wretchedness.” In a letter to Ernest Jones, Freud declared unambiguously: “America is gigantic, but it is a gigantic mistake.” (See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (1983), p. 79.
 The Spanish existentialist philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno (Tragic Sense of Life, 1921) has called it “the hunger for immortality.”
Cuba Counts On Russia’s Economic Support
Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, on an official working visit this June, has laid out his country’s plans, soliciting support for countering the United States, respect for its territorial integrity and support for resuscitating the Island’s falling economy. With many obstacles driving up basic cost of living, Cuba is consistently experiencing exodus of its citizens most them exploiting the geographical proximity, and migrating to settle in the United States.
During most of the meetings with Russian officials, Marrero Cruz underlined the necessity to make efforts in strengthening military relations and seek effective ways to boost agricultural exports to the Russian Federation. In addition, the Eurasian market may also open diverse opportunities and beneficial partnerships for Cuba.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin indicated, during a meeting with the Cuban delegation in southern coastal city Sochi on May 7, that “Cuba is one of the important partners in Latin America. Our cooperation rests on solid traditions of friendship, solidarity, mutual respect and trust. Together, we are resisting unprecedented sanctions pressure from unfriendly states.”
“The forum ‘Russian-Cuba business dialogue’ organized by our business council was held on the sidelines of the intergovernmental commission,” Titov who also heads the Russian-Cuba business council, also said. “Forty-six Russian companies participated in it. Before the forum our portfolio contained 11 investment projects, while after the forum it already had around 30 projects.
According to the intergovernmental commission for trade, economic and scientific cooperation, which is addressing these tasks of improving aspects of the bilateral relations, Moscow and Havana need to restart cooperation in order to boost trade and investment. In addition, Russia attaches great significance to implementing large-scale projects with Cuba, including those aimed at increasing oil recovery at Cuban fields and upgrading the metallurgical plant in Havana.
“Despite the unfavorable external environment, bilateral trade approx. 60 billion rubles, or more than 20 billion Cuban pesos, last year. The positive dynamic was retained this year, with trade growing nine times in January-April compared to the same period in 2022. I have no doubt that it will keep growing,” Mishustin said.
“We are planning to actively cooperate in tourism,” he said, adding that Aeroflot Group was about to begin regular flights to and from Cuba. This would increase the number of mutual trips between the two countries, and would strengthen business ties and cultural relations.
Giving an additional voice to tourism, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko also said “Cuba is Russia’s key partner in Central America, and it is completely logical that economic relations on all tracks need to be developed. Regular air travel with Cuba is resuming starting on July 1 by the president’s order. The Aeroflot company received a relevant directive.”
“The Aeroflot group will start operating flights to Cuba from July 1. It is a long-awaited event for all tourists because Cuba has always been a place of attraction not only for tourism traffic, but also for business traffic,” Aeroflot – Russian Airlines PJSC director general and board chairman Sergei Alexandrovsky noted.
Rossiya Airline, a member of the Aeroflot Group, will open flights from Moscow to Varadero, Cuba, from July 1. The company plans initially to make two flights per week But a third flight will be added from September 5, according to the airline’s information. The tourist flow from Russia to Cuba may rise to 500,000 people per year.
Marrero Cruz was on his first visit to Russia. Gerardo Penalver Portal was in his delegation that visited Moscow. Russian foreign ministry said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and his visiting Cuban counterpart, Gerardo Penalver Portal, discussed the two countries’ efforts toward building a multipolar world based on the principles of international law.
“The sides reiterated mutual commitment to further strengthening Russian-Cuban cooperation in a wide spectrum of fields in the spirit of strategic partnership,” the statement posted to the website said. According sources, bilateral trade tripled to $452 million in 2022, and it increased ninefold to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, compared with the same period 2022.
Official visits to and from both capitals proliferate, Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin visited Cuba in April. Earlier Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov visited Havana. Cuban leader visited Moscow late November 2022. At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledged to continue developing bilateral relations. The delegation also addressed both houses of Russia’s legislature.
Cuba’s has an estimated 12 million population. Around 55,000 people of Russian descent live in Cuba. A 2016 survey shows that 67% of Cubans have a favorable view of Russia, with 8% expressing an unfavorable view. Cuba became dependent on Soviet markets and military aid and was a major ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. After Soviet’s collapse, Russia has maintained their diplomatic relations with Cuba.
India: A Strategic Partner or an Unreliable Friend?
The Future of Geopolitics Will Be Decided by 6 Swing States
The world is witnessing a new era of great power competition between the United States and China, with Russia playing a spoiler role. The outcome of this rivalry will shape the global order for decades to come. But the fate of this contest will not be decided by the actions of Washington, Beijing, or Moscow alone. It will also depend on how a group of influential countries in the global south navigate the shifting geopolitical landscape.
These countries are the geopolitical swing states of the 21st century. They are relatively stable and prosperous nations that have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century, when they had to choose between alignment or non-alignment with one bloc or another. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition.
These geopolitical swing states fall into four overlapping categories:
– Countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains.
– Countries uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring, or friendshoring.
– Countries with a disproportionate amount of capital and willingness to deploy it around the world.
– Countries with developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue within certain constraints.
Six countries stand out as exemplars of these categories: Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil. These countries have more power today than ever before for several reasons: They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions.
The geopolitical swing states have more agency than ever before because they have grown more confident and capable in pursuing their own interests and values on the global stage. They have developed their own sources of soft and hard power, such as cultural influence, economic clout, military strength, diplomatic networks, and technological innovation. They have also diversified their partnerships and alliances, seeking to balance their relations with both the U.S. and China, as well as other regional and global actors.
Turkey has emerged as a regional powerbroker and a global player in defense, energy, humanitarian aid, and mediation. It has pursued an assertive foreign policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sought to expand Turkey’s influence in its neighborhood and beyond. Turkey has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Somalia; challenged Greece and Cyprus over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean; supported Qatar against a Saudi-led blockade; hosted millions of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan; mediated between Iran and the West; and built close ties with Russia despite being a NATO member.
India has risen as a major economic and strategic power in Asia and the world. It has pursued a multi-aligned foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has sought to enhance India’s role as a leading voice for democracy, development, and diversity. India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., joined the Quad alliance with Japan, Australia, and the U.S., engaged with China on trade and border issues despite tensions; expanded its outreach to Africa and Latin America; invested in connectivity projects in its neighborhood; and championed initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has transformed its economy and society under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has sought to diversify Saudi Arabia’s sources of income away from oil dependence, modernize its social norms and institutions, and assert its leadership in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Saudi Arabia has launched an ambitious Vision 2030 reform program, led a military intervention in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels, normalized relations with Israel, hosted major summits such as the G20, invested heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, and established strategic partnerships with China, India, and Russia, while maintaining its alliance with the U.S.
The geopolitical swing states have also benefited from regionalization, the process by which regions become more integrated and interdependent economically, politically, and culturally. Regionalization offers opportunities for these countries to enhance their influence and interests in their respective regions, as well as to cooperate with other regional powers on common challenges and opportunities. Regionalization also creates a buffer against the pressures and uncertainties of the global system, allowing these countries to pursue their own models of development and governance.
South Africa has played a pivotal role in advancing regional integration and cooperation in Africa, as well as representing African interests and perspectives on the global stage.
It has been a founding member and a leader of the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It has also participated in peacekeeping and mediation efforts in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa has leveraged its position as the most industrialized and diversified economy in Africa to attract foreign investment and trade, especially from China, India, and the EU.
Indonesia has emerged as a key player in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region, as well as a bridge between Asia and the Islamic world. It has been a driving force behind the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (AASP). It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as China, Japan, India, Australia,
and the U.S. on issues such as maritime security, counterterrorism, climate change, and pandemic response. Indonesia has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia to promote its vision of a democratic, tolerant, and prosperous region.
Brazil has been a leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a voice for the global south on issues such as trade, environment, and human rights. It has been a founding member and a driving force behind regional organizations such as Mercosur, Unasur, and Celac. It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as the U.S., China, India, and the EU on issues such as energy security, infrastructure development, and social inclusion. Brazil has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous country in Latin America to advance its interests and values in the region and beyond.
The geopolitical swing states have also gained more leverage in the global system by exploiting the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China competition. They have sought to maximize their benefits from both sides, while minimizing their costs and risks. They have also tried to shape the rules and norms of the emerging global order, according to their own preferences and principles. They have not hesitated to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
Turkey has sought to balance its relations with both the U.S. and China, while pursuing its own strategic autonomy. It has maintained its NATO membership and cooperation with the U.S. on issues such as counterterrorism, Afghanistan, and Iran, while also resisting U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and Syria. It has also expanded its economic ties with China, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while also expressing concern over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Turkey has also defied both the U.S. and China by acquiring Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, despite facing sanctions and criticism from both sides.
India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., especially under the Quad framework, while also maintaining its engagement with China on trade and border issues, despite tensions. It has welcomed U.S. support for its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, its membership in multilateral export control regimes, and its role as a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific region. It has also increased its trade with China, especially in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, and renewable energy, while also pushing back against China’s assertiveness along their disputed border, where a deadly clash occurred in 2020. India has also defied both the U.S. and China by joining RCEP, despite U.S. withdrawal from the pact and China’s dominance in it.
Saudi Arabia has maintained its alliance with the U.S., especially on security and energy issues, while also diversifying its relations with China on economic and technological issues. It has relied on U.S. support for its military intervention in Yemen, its confrontation with Iran, and its normalization with Israel, while also facing U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and nuclear proliferation. It has also increased its investment in China, especially under the BRI framework, while also seeking Chinese cooperation on issues such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Saudi Arabia has also defied both the U.S. and China by pursuing its own nuclear program, despite U.S. opposition and Chinese competition.
The rise of these geopolitical swing states will have significant implications for the global order and the great power competition.
The global order will become more multipolar and complex, as these countries will shape the rules and norms of the emerging system according to their own preferences and principles. They will not accept a binary choice between the U.S. and China, but will seek to preserve their strategic autonomy and flexibility. They will also demand more voice and representation in global institutions and forums, such as the U.N., the IMF, the WTO, and the G20.
The great power competition will become more nuanced and dynamic, as these countries will leverage their relations with both the U.S. and China to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs and risks. They will also exploit the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China rivalry to advance their own interests and values. They will not hesitate to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
The global challenges and opportunities will require more cooperation and coordination among these countries and the great powers, as these countries will play a key role in addressing issues such as climate change, pandemic response, cyber security, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade, development, and human rights. They will also offer new markets, sources of innovation, and partners for cooperation to both the U.S. and China.
The geopolitical swing states of Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil are the middle powers of the global south that will decide the future of geopolitics. They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions. They have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition. The U.S., China, and Russia should not take these countries for granted or ignore their interests and values. They should engage them with respect and pragmatism, seeking areas of convergence and managing areas of divergence. They should also recognize that these countries are not passive bystanders or pawns in their rivalry, but active players and partners in shaping the global order. The geopolitical swing states should not be complacent or reckless in their actions. They should be aware of the risks and responsibilities that come with their power and influence. They should also be constructive and responsible in their contributions to the global order. They should not only pursue their own interests and values, but also uphold the common interests and values of humanity.
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