Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi have made significant contributions to the fields of international relations and contemporary capitalist economics. In their works, such as “The Decline of American Power” (2003), “The Long Twentieth Century” (2010), and “Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of Twenty-First Century” (2009), they offer valuable insights. Some of the things that were explored are the ideological corrosion of American power over time, that is, America’s ability to be an example to be followed by the so-called “free world” and secondly the beginning of the Systemic Cycle of Accumulation’s downfall, currently dominated by the US. These are some of the relevant ongoing changes in the scenario of International Relations.
Despite some valid criticisms of the authors’ approaches and conclusions, either by the various analytical schools of international relations, the fact is that today’s geopolitical and economic world is no longer the same as at the end of the Second World War, or even the one inherited from the end of the Cold War. We can say that the idea that the 21st century will continue to be determined by the USA and Europe has completely lost its meaning.
China’s stability as a largely capitalist economy, global investor, and proponent of its geopolitical project, alongside the resurgence of Russia in recent years, demonstrate that the USA and the European Union (the “West”) are no longer in control of the economy and world ideology or, more precisely, liberal democracy as an absolute value emanating from countries committed to Human Rights or Democracy as real values. John Mearsheimer, for instance, has analyzed such a process in his work “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, 2018”. Mearsheimer (John Mearsheimer: We’re playing Russian roulette), who offers a logical and geopolitical understanding of the NATO/Russia dispute, suffers strong criticism for his views. Despite that, he remains one of the few analysts who did not give in to the warlike ideological establishment of the White House. It’s worth noting that Henry Kissinger who also saw NATO’s eastward expansion as a provocation, then changed his mind (Henry Kissinger: Why I changed my mind about Ukraine) to follow Washington’s prevailing directions. Consistently maintaining historical coherence is of ultimate importance
To reassure the argument presented, the very idea of an effective US commitment to Human Rights or respect for International Law loses its meaning when we remember Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan, to speak of the most recent facts, are the clearest examples of violations of territorial rights and human rights
As we have already pointed out (Ukraine war: A new multipolar world is emerging), the invasion of Ukraine (2014-2022) marked a significant turning point in this new geopolitical cycle of power that is emerging. It was not just the Russian invasion itself, but also the failure of the West to effectively isolate Russia that demonstrated that fundamental shift. The low influence of the US and EU in enlisting other nations to follow the sanctions strategy against Moscow demonstrated that more than mere rhetoric about territorial violations in Ukraine is required. The lack of global legitimacy of Washington’s policy is evident when the US maintains privileged relations with Israel, which has illegally occupied the West Bank and the Golan Heights since 1967, for example. In addition, the supposed defense of democracy as a fundamental pillar of its foreign policy becomes a fragile object when high-level diplomatic relations are maintained with Saudi Arabia or China, countries with a history of systematic violations of Human Rights according to the organizations that monitor the theme around the world, many of which are based in the US and EU.
Matias Spektor in Foreign Affairs (May/June 2023) in the article “In Defense of the Fence Sitters: What the West Gets Wrong About Hedging” analyzes the causes of the so-called Global South’s reluctance to align with the adoption of Western positions against Russia. It is a good guide to understanding what might be happening in international relations and its future.
The emergence of BRICS, as a unit of countries with significant global projection in economic terms, and later the creation of the New Development Bank, provided an effective body in the democratization of access to international credit outside the traditional center created in the post-war period as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank. This is an important detail for this new geopolitical and economic configuration, even with the obvious divergences between its founding members. The very possible rise of BRICS to BRICS Plus with other countries postulating to join the group demonstrates that something is outside the traditional pattern that we have known so far.
Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, highlights in his article on the Foreign Policy website entitled “6 Swing States Will Decide the Future of Geopolitics”,that the new geopolitical dynamic is changing for new players such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey. Such countries are not in the direct US sphere of influence and those should receive more attention from Washington according to the author. These are nations that did not support the sanctions promoted by the EU and the US against Moscow and sought to establish their own lines of action based on their economic and geopolitical interests.
In Samuel Charp’s “An Unwinnable War: Washington Needs an Endgame in Ukraine” published in Foreign Affairs the argument proposed is that extending a war in which Russia may not even win, but is unlikely to be defeated, only serves the interests (economic and geopolitical, for example) of the USA, including the possibility of increasing the dangers of military and even nuclear escalation. Europeans and Ukrainians are mere pawns within Washington’s logic. It must be recognized that Moscow will have to have its complaints heard sooner or later. Even if common sense does not find an echo in Washington, several analysts have already recognized this.
Based on the current scenario, the world is entering a new phase. This new phase will not be commanded by the US and the EU. Therein lies the biggest problem for Europeans and North Americans: recognizing that their cycle of power is coming to an end and not accepting it in a coherent way. What do we mean by that? Maintaining the same lines of action in the Cold War, that is, systematically creating “communist enemies” to enlist allies and maintaining a belligerent line in foreign policy is a serious flaw that will not change the final result: the geopolitical and economic decline of the USA as a dominant power and Europe as a major geopolitical region.
On the other hand, the EU has not yet realized that the line dictated by the US and blindly followed by Brussels will cause even more problems for the bloc. Incidentally, the results are already visible: inflation and unemployment are the visible tips of the iceberg into which the EU is inserted. The loss of influence of the Euro-Atlantic axis is irreversible.
What to do? It is time to prepare for the new global geopolitical cycle.