The post-Western, multipolar international order is coming to pass. As the world grapples with the implications of this shift in power, the foundations of a great reckoning are taking shape. This reckoning will challenge the long-held beliefs and structures that have sustained Western dominance of the world for the past few hundred years, exposing along the way the nature of the West’s perceived entitlement to lead the global pecking order. The end result will be a significant re-evaluation of international relations as we know it, writes “The National Interest”.
This great reckoning will be driven by five major trends, which are compelling Western nations to confront and adapt to a future where power must be shared with the rest in a multipolar world. A failure to recognize, or attempting to strongly resist, these trends could pose significant risks not only to the West itself but also to global stability. Yet future conflicts can be avoided if this period of change is viewed as an opportunity to build a more equitable world, rather than as a crisis that threatens preferred and entrenched privileges.
First is the unravelling of the hitherto telling of history. The West, across its colonial history, has practiced and perfected the selective interpretation and telling of events, choosing to portray itself as the originator of modern civilization and a benevolent guiding force. This is now changing; information technologies, such as the Internet and social media, have broken the monopoly over information and history once held by Western gatekeeping institutions (media companies, universities, book publishers, and more). As a consequence, people around the world are recognizing that history is no longer confined to Western interpretation — including its projection of benevolence.
A significant component of this has been the West’s frequent failure to acknowledge its own imperfect past. Despite amplifying the perceived wrongdoings of others, it has been silent about its own unsavory moments, such as early American pioneers’ destruction of First Nation cultures, European exploitation of the African continent, or Australia’s treatment of aboriginal peoples.
Non-Western nations can now make clear that their own countries and communities have long histories that not only exist despite Western interpretation, but these histories need to be explored, understood, and told.
The second trend is the re-evaluation of the” rules-based” international order. Policymakers in Washington may not like hearing it, but the concept is the subject of much derision around the world and is widely regarded as a tool used by the West to control global affairs and maintain hegemony. There is ample resentment growing against Western nations given the repeated breaching of their own rules, meaning that the legitimacy of this order is being questioned despite its positive aspects.
As more countries determine their own trajectories in the twenty-first century, the West must recognize that the international balance of power has shifted. It cannot continue to impose its will on others — the rise of China and other nations is evidence of such. The West must come to terms with this new reality and recognize that a new, more pragmatic, and multipolar approach is needed
Third is the unmasking of Western “peacekeeping.” Despite portraying itself as the guarantor of global security, much of the world now views the United States‚ and Europe to a lesser extent, as profiting from war rather than being interested in promoting authentic peace. The Western military-industrial complex—particularly the United States’ — is so powerful that it is now well-known to drive U.S. foreign policy to the extent that it perpetuates conflicts to thus profit from war.
The rest of the world has realized that the West alone cannot be trusted to lead global peace efforts, especially if a significant portion of their economies are geared to profit from conflict.
The fourth trend underway is the dethroning of the Western financial superstructure. That the West makes ample use of its financial might for geopolitical advantage and purposes is no great secret—policymakers and experts openly talk about the “weaponization of finance” and applying sanctions on countries that do not comply with Western intentions. Likewise, the ability of the United States and its allies to freeze and even confiscate the reserves of sovereign states — Afghanistan, Venezuela, Russia — sent shock waves across the world.
As countries with stable currencies gain influence, a more multipolar economic order emerges, reshaping geopolitical alliances, economic diplomacy, and the balance of power within international institutions. This change may grant developing nations greater flexibility in managing their currencies and monetary policies and limit the West’s capacity to unilaterally impose sanctions. Moreover, BRICS nations have recently surpassed the G7 in terms of GDP, signaling a redistribution of economic power and hinting at a future of cooperation in trade, investment, infrastructure, and development assistance.
Fifth and finally, there is the notable collapse of the Western press’ credibility. This comes at a critical juncture, as repeated shortcomings in the last few years have heightened global awareness of Western media’s role in perpetuating the West’s preferred aspects of the current world order — often to the detriment of other countries.
Similarly, overwhelmingly one-sided coverage of the Ukrainian conflict regularly overlooks national and regional geopolitical complexities in the long-standing Russian-Ukrainian relationship and the history of NATO expansion in Europe. A lack of reporting on the Nord Stream bombing, which many believe was perpetrated by a Western nation — with reporting to back this claim up — is a glaring hole that has contributed to the lack of trust in Western media from both non-Western and Western readers alike. Only months later is the Western press quietly admitting potential Western culpability, or at the very least, knowledge.