BOGOTÁ — The 75 years that have followed the end of World War II have turned into an epoch of complexity.
For the West, these were the years of the United States' consolidation as undisputed international leader at Europe's expense. Today, we are witnessing the old powers of the East returning to the fore. There is China, the imperial survivor of the ages, and post-Soviet Russia, divided as always between its east and west, like the two-headed eagle of its emperors.
It has two souls and two constituent realities, Asiatic and European, that would marry the legacy of the Cossacks of its plains and Mongols of the steppes with European civilization. That is as contradictory as the return of a greater Russia, fearful of ideological competition from the former superpowers, and breathing life into a declining NATO with the invasion of Ukraine.
A new multipolar world
History and Russia (with its particular social personality) play a central role in events in this time of confusion and change. We are no longer in the bipolar world of the superpowers, with its ideologies and Manichaean narratives that shared one goal: to control and dominate.
We face the multipolar stage raised by a new contender approaching the pinnacle of its power: China, that imperial state reaping the rewards of its patience and strategic vision. Beside it are Vladimir Putin's Russia, faintly nostalgic of its imperial past, and a United States that has barely managed to hide, or even overcome, its original sin of slavery. It is a historical reality that belies its soul and social structure, as Trump, the last president, unwittingly revealed.
In those 70 years the world had the United Nations, which wasn't a world government but a collective system of coordination and intervention. For the first 30 years, it carried weight under the West's decisive leadership. Meanwhile countries of the East, from the Koreas to Vietnam, China and Malaysia, left semi-feudal conditions to join a distant, and alien, modernity. They did so through social convulsions that were often bloody and violent. Those were years of liberation wars and new republics emerging from the rubble of European colonial empires.
Xi Jinping meeting with Vladimir Putin in January 2020
A disgraced cosmopolitan order
The West lived in a happy combination of prosperity and democracy that almost became synonymous with itself. Years later, with the fall of Soviet socialism, there was even talk, naively and not without a dose of arrogance, of the End of History. But what we have seen is not the end of history but the end of the West's triumph and its dominance.
Beware the obsession with gazing back at the past
The West has entered turbulence a mere few years after the end of Soviet communism. It was led this way by a combination of political, institutional, economic and financial crises provoked in part by the unchecked power — and shenanigans — of global finance.
In reaction to the failures of a disgraced cosmopolitan order, vigorous, if not angry, nationalist projects have returned to reclaim power from international institutions.
The temptation now is to seek to rectify the hand history that has been unfairly dealt, disregarding the dynamism and possibilities of current realities. Beware the obsession with gazing back at the past, lest it turn the present into a Biblical pillar of salt.
NATO no longer exists as it did. The United States is mired in unresolved domestic conflicts. Russia is in the grip of nostalgia even as it slides to become a lesser power, feeling unsafe in a world it cannot control. Europe must act out Charles de Gaulle's dream of escaping American tutelage and embrace an eager Ukraine.
And at the top, China is determined to make its way as a prosperous and respected power, cured of past fears and humiliations, and free of all ties beyond its control — even with Russia.
Welcome to a multidimensional, multipolar world that is reshaping the West from main player to just one of the players.
- Behold The Age Of Anocracy, When Democracies Slide Into ... ›
- China-Russia Alliance, How The West Failed To See It Coming ... ›
- No, The West Is Not In Decline - Worldcrunch ›
- The Surprise That May Finally Bury NATO: The Ukrainian Army - Worldcrunch ›
- A Slavic Take On The Russian Complex Of Superiority - Worldcrunch ›