THIRTY-TWO years ago, an event took place that American political scientist Francis Fukuyama claimed marked the “end of history.” It was argued that the disappearance of the Soviet Union from the world political scene and the end of the Soviet socialist project meant that there was no socioeconomic alternative to a liberal capitalist world order – a system that puts the individual above society and private business above national interests and gives overconsumption priority over progress.
What did the collapse of the Soviet system, the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, and the breakup of the Eastern bloc lead to? In the wake of all this and with political support from their governments, British, German, French, and American companies received unlimited sway over a market representing nearly 420 million people, of whom 290 million represented the total population of former Soviet republics and the other 130 million the population of former Eastern bloc countries. In addition to vast opportunities for the sale of consumer and other goods, Western countries gained access to rich natural resources, including natural gas and oil, and this brought about unprecedented industrial growth in Western Europe.
The voluntary withdrawal of the USSR from the global political arena did more than save European economies; it also helped create united Europe as we know it today. The collapse of the Eastern bloc and the disappearance of the Soviet economic space underlay the economic modernization and prosperity of Western Europe.
But the Eastern bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics were not the only nations harmed by the termination of the Soviet project. Countries – primarily in Africa and South America – that had looked to the USSR for support were left powerless against the increasing hegemony of the US and its European satellites. Admittedly, during the Cold War, developing and nonaligned countries skillfully exploited Soviet-American antagonisms to advance their own interests and seek more sovereignty for themselves. That is natural. But the collapse of one of the two pillars of the world order at that time left them defenseless against the expansionism of transnational corporations, which were extensively supported by Western governments.
Russia shared this plight. We quickly became a target of some of the best colonial practices. The most glaring of these included so-called production sharing agreements (PSAs) – contracts that de facto vested so-called foreign investors with control of Russian resource extraction sites, mainly oil and gas fields. Shell, ExxonMobil, and Mitsui were developing some of Russia’s richest oil fields under PSAs. PSAs were abolished only in 2004.
It is also worth mentioning why Russia ceased to manufacture its own long-haul airliners and was forced to opt for Boeings and Airbuses instead. One reason was a Western-organized brain drain from Russia. Sadly, there was nothing we could do at the time to stop that trend; talented scientists, engineers, and other specialists who had been educated and trained in the USSR and post-Soviet Russia left their country to work for the economies of the US and European nations. We were not in a position to offer them proper salaries or working conditions. Our country drew necessary and obvious conclusions from that.
There are dozens of examples of neocolonial dependence that Russia fell into after the breakup of the Soviet Union. We must admit that we voluntarily gave our market to the Germans, French, British, and Americans. We naïvely saw this as normal. Our Western partners were telling us that a key feature of the new liberal world order was globalization, which involved the global division of labor, with some countries producing commodities and others, due to their supposedly better human resources, making high-tech goods.
We acquiesced. The shock caused by the breakup of the world’s biggest power, the disintegration of its industry, and the total impoverishment of its population as a result of mistakes by the then-Soviet leadership made us give up a whole range of our industrial achievements. Foreign partners promised Russia access to high-tech goods, and all they wanted in return was energy for their advanced industry, forgetting about our own.
Western nations largely owed the technological and economic achievements they made after the collapse of the USSR to lavish inputs of Russian resources and labor in exchange for promises of integration into the “civilized world.” Russia, as the legal successor to the Soviet Union, sincerely expected that the end of military confrontation would mean fair global economic rules that considered everybody’s economic and security interests. That did not happen.
The end of the Cold War – something that all Soviet leaders without exception had sought – failed to bring about an expected era of peace, cooperation, and mutual understanding. Immediately after the breakup of the USSR, Russia came to be seen as prey. This could be described as creeping revanchism, but in reality it was just typical American and European colonialism. In return for the honor of being allowed into the European anteroom, Russia was expected to unquestioningly go along with all Western political principles and moves – from the crushing of Yugoslavia by the US and its allies with the numerous civilian fatalities that entailed to the aggression against Libya with the aim of depriving it of all its sovereignty and statehood.
For this reason, the March 2014 referendum on the status of Crimea shocked the Western political establishment. And no wonder: Somebody dared to disagree – justifiably! – with the Western model for global development. At that time, we did not know the phrase “rules-based order”; it came into being later, and we will get back to it.
The reason for developments that culminated in the Crimea referendum was the fact that the West, by brutally trampling on all agreements and throwing away whatever trust it enjoyed, tried to deprive Russia of its right to have national interests and defend its people and allies. Russia has always been loyal to its tradition of unflinchingly honoring its international commitments and working for international peace and harmony, but not to the detriment of our basic national interests.
Russia has always respected the interests of its neighbors. This is recorded in our fundamental documents and has been confirmed in practice. But our country has expected its own legitimate interests and concerns to be respected in return. President Vladimir Putin said so at the Munich Security Conference 15 years ago. His words fell on deaf ears: As before, Russia’s Western “partners” saw it as a limitless source of cheap commodities that had no right to its own vision for a global security architecture.
Nor did the West have any qualms about interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs. During the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya in the early 2000s, our foreign “partners” supplied international terrorists in southern Russia with weapons and communications devices. They trained militants, too. British, French, and German elite special forces were active in Chechnya before they were wiped out by our troops. Moreover, Western countries have repeatedly supported separatists at the political level, on key international platforms. Can the peoples of Russia and Georgia ever forget the efforts by a group of politicasters groomed by the West to ruin fragile peace in the South Caucasus in 2008 by killing members of a Russian peacekeeping force and Russian civilians?
Some international relations analysts say that the ideological crisis between Russia and the West first entered a hot phase at the end of February 2022, with the start of the Special Military Operation in Ukraine. This is not true. The precursor was the bloody attempt in August 2008 by then-Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to recapture the city of Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, to which Russia responded militarily to pacify Georgia. Less than six years later, a nearly identical scenario materialized in Ukraine. Why? Because none of our so-called partners wanted to hear our legitimate security concerns.
In response to our concerns many years ago about potential NATO enlargement, we heard repeated assurances from Washington and Brussels that NATO policies were motivated by the best of intentions. Former US secretary of state James Baker said that the “defensive alliance” would not move one inch eastward after the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. Was this promise kept? Of course not. NATO continued its creeping aggression with several enlargements, each of which moved its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders.
Today, NATO’s entire military apparatus is working to destroy Russia, to inflict a strategic defeat on it by sponsoring the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine that has been set up by Western puppet masters. The alliance is supplying the regime with money, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, intelligence, military advisers, training centers, mercenaries, and so on. It is clear now that the same tactic had been applied in Belarus in 2020, but it failed there. Apparently, the Belarus project was underfunded. But Western investment in the current conflict in Ukraine has not been a problem: Nearly $170 billion has been pumped into the confrontation with Russia, with military supplies accounting for more than a third of that sum – $67 billion. Kiev is being offered the most advanced systems. We have not seen anything like this since NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan.
The West realizes that the conflict in Ukraine has truly existential significance for it. It is no accident that the EU and the US have declared the military and political defeat of Russia their goal in this conflict. They realize that their failure to crush us would set forces in motion that would forever deprive the West of its prestige and its tools for global political and economic influence. It is clear why the West is using its whole might against Russia. The Western world’s ability to call the tune in global affairs, to determine developments not only in Europe but also in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Latin America is on the line. They were betting on a 1941-style blitzkrieg, only more in an economic and political than military sense, but it has clearly failed.
The US and its satellites have weaponized global economic infrastructure – payment systems, financial instruments, financial guarantees, etc. In the past, they claimed that this infrastructure would be outside political influences in what they predicted would be a new, integrated world. Over the past year and a half, it has become obvious that none of those economic infrastructure elements can be used as a weapon more than once, and it only makes sense to use them if there is a guarantee of success. This has not been the case, though. The financial bombs dropped on Russia have had no effect. Moreover, Middle Eastern, South American, and African countries that have fallen into economic and financial dependence on the West in the past 30 years have been able to see that the neocolonial system can be fought successfully.
The inability of the West to solve its Russia problem quickly and convincingly and to punish Moscow for rejecting the “rules-based order” means that Euro-Atlanticism is losing its positions, primarily because of the typical arrogance of the Europeans and Anglo-Saxons and their unwillingness to abandon their presumed exceptionalism, to respect and make fair assessments of the capabilities of other countries, and to establish interaction with them on an equal footing.
The Western system is obviously falling apart, and this is a sign that the West-centric world is heading toward collapse. The US has used all its political resources to hastily form a coalition of countries that shares its ideology and has made them bear the huge burden of supporting anti-Russian military, political, and economic efforts. To meet US demands, Europe continues to invest in the Ukraine project, mercilessly burning away its post-World War II accumulations in the furnace of the conflict. The 55 billion euros allocated by Brussels to support Kiev pales in comparison with the losses sustained by the EU from giving up its strategic cooperation with Russia at the behest of Washington. Estimated European losses from the closure of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the withdrawal of European industrial giants from the Russian market, and Europe’s refusal to import Russian energy that had been keeping its industry going for decades have already reached at least $270 billion. Ideology and politics have taken the place of economic pragmatism.
What will the future bring, and how will the new international political reality take shape? Countries dependent on the West will start to realize their own true interests. The anti-Russian hybrid aggression will make them see that potential similar action against them would be more effective and rapid, simply because they are smaller than Russia.
The West has been pumping natural and human resources out of Africa, Eurasia, and Latin America for a long time to ensure the economic and financial stability of Western civilization. This has been made possible by the lack of an alternative for more than 30 years. Not a single developing country has been in a position to challenge the established world order that has enabled several countries to exploit the resources of the rest of the world. As the Ukrainian conflict makes clear, the West sees all other countries as a tool for maintaining its global economic and political hegemony.
Today, more and more countries in key regions of the world are asserting their identities and becoming aware of their interests and development potential. They can see their wealth and human capital being used generously to maintain a world order that has nothing to do with the interests of their people. While Western countries are promoting the concept of a “rules-based order,” nobody knows exactly what these rules are, and the West is taking full charge of drawing them up, disregarding the interests of the rest of the world.
Non-Western countries are fed up with being dependent and having their economies plundered. They want more than justice – they want compensation from the Americans and Europeans for decades of enslavement and humiliation. They also want to be treated with respect and fairness.
Of course, the present-day world order will take a while to destroy. No large-scale transformation can be instantaneous. The socialist bloc did not disappear overnight, either. Its collapse had a combination of causes, some objective and some manmade, such as mistakes by socialist politicians. Nor will Russia’s victory in the Ukraine conflict make the West instantly leave the political scene and abandon its hegemonic practices. But the successful outcome of the Special Military Operation will trigger new international processes and make the tectonic shifts that have begun in world politics irreversible.
The fighting in Ukraine is clearly no local clash between two former Soviet republics; it is a conflict between Russia and the US as the main beneficiary of the “rules-based order.” The purpose of Western political and military support for Kiev is to close the “Russia issue,” something the West did not do in the early 1990s because it was sure that Russia would never be a problem for it. The US and its allies need this to secure their global domination for several more decades, but mainly to be able to focus on China and stop dividing its resources between the two fronts.
Foreign – mainly Western – experts often say that Russia’s current confrontation with the American-European war machine is an existential challenge to Russia. If Russia loses, it will end up on the wrong side of history, they argue. But as often happens, these experts are forgetting to look in the mirror. The outcome of the Ukraine conflict is critical particularly for the West-centric model of the world order. The Russian victory will set off an irreversible centrifugal trend. It will become obvious that the Western countries will not be able to use their huge military and administrative resources to achieve their goals – in this case, incapacitating Russia as a clear violator of their mythical world order.
The inevitable failure of Washington, Brussels, and their allies to defeat Russia in the Ukraine conflict will make everyone realize the West’s inability to achieve anything of the kind in any other part of the world. The Taiwan issue is the first example to come to mind. While the EU has given the US upbeat assurances of support on the Taiwan issue, the West’s inevitable defeat in Ukraine will show that there is nothing behind its determination to behave as the most powerful actor in other regions far from Europe. It will, furthermore, become obvious that behind the West’s “freedom of navigation” mantra is a desire to control global trade routes in order to be able to block them whenever it needs to. The West assumes that free trade means a free hand for itself.
EU leaders realize that they will have to share accountability for the monstrous scheme of more than 30 years to make Ukraine a military and political “anti-Russia” outpost. This project clearly has the goal of depriving our country of stable access to world markets and blocking the supply of our products through full military and political control of the Black and Baltic Seas. This would create a military and political mechanism to enable Western economies to receive Russian commodities at prices dictated by Brussels.
We can already see nervous attempts at this disguised as concern for Ukraine. Eventually, Russia could be put under heavy pressure, maybe purely military, to make it agree to replaying the scenario of the sacred 1990s, with its economy degraded to being a source of commodities for “golden billion” nations.
The Ukrainian front means so much to the US and its allies that they openly speak of the possibility of providing Ukraine with nuclear weapons. So far, the talk is about tactical weapons, but who can guarantee that tactical nukes will not be replaced with something more serious?
The reality, however, is that Russia will attain all its military and political objectives, and this will convincingly demonstrate that Western hegemony has come to an end. The Americans and Europeans have already pulled out their big guns: blocking Russian access to payment systems and financial institutions and tools. Economic force did not work.
Washington and its allies were quick to ignore one of their own chief principles: the security of private property. This was nothing new: In reformatting Europe along their own lines in the 1930s, the Nazis trampled on all property rights in supplying German monopolies with assets from France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. The Europeans expect their American partners to share accountability with them for unleashing the Ukraine conflict. That was a mistake. The European countries alone will be called to account no matter what is done by their American bosses, who, as usual, are profiting on weapons contracts.
The West-centric model of the world order is already eroding. But it is unlikely that anyone will be too eager to be held accountable and provide recompense when the day of reckoning comes. And while the West got away quite easily with its undertakings in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, in spite of a complete, unquestionable military and political fiasco in each case, in the Ukraine conflict our “partners” have put their expectations a bit too high. Factors behind this miscalculation include traditional Western arrogance toward nations outside the “golden billion,” typical Anglo-Saxon greed, and the degradation of what were once model social institutions. In fact, the unipolar world has deceived itself by reformatting all key international bodies to meet its own needs.
The West’s main problem in its relations with Russia is that, in the days when it was still called the Soviet Union, our country brought down the global colonial system. Though weaker than the West, it showed the rest of the world another path – a path of justice, respect for oneself and others, and rejection of hegemony. A path to genuine power. The West could not forgive us for that then, nor can it today.
It will be Russia’s main task after the end of the violent phase of the confrontation to be instrumental in building a multipolar world, a world in which no country or political bloc would have the right to seek well-being for itself at the expense of others. All UN mechanisms will need radical revision, from the transfer of UN headquarters to a truly independent jurisdiction (a country capable of meeting its international commitments) to composition principles for UN bodies that preclude their domination by Western representatives. For that matter, all other international organizations should be made free from Western domination.
Independent organizations with a proven track record of developing effective responses to regional challenges already exist: BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are the most prominent of them. UN mechanisms are under the influence of the Anglo-Saxon lobby. We can see former American and British officials, including ex-US State Department figures, in the administrations of UN bodies. They naturally advance the interests of their countries rather than work for global progress. One glaring example of the duplicity of our Western “partners” is the “grain deal” that they lobbied for in pursuing their own selfish goals. Obviously, the West ignores not only the interests of Russia but also those of the poor countries that this deal is designed to help. The puppet regime in Kiev is doing all it can to prevent Russia from keeping its end of the deal, and the bombing of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline is evidence of this. The deal, which is supposedly a UN initiative, is under threat of collapse.
Russia is a member of organizations other than the UN that are free from Western destructive influences and genuinely seek the welfare of all nations; work for stable political, military, and economic relations among countries; and look for responses to numerous challenges, including economic and social inequality and international terrorists (the latter, in fact, continue to receive logistical support from the US).
After the inevitable collapse of Western hegemony, compensation claims may come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and African and Latin American countries. Each has a thick stack of compensation bills, and debt forgiveness probably will not be an option.
The new economic space will need a new international form of payment to rule out any aggressive financial scheming by countries controlling international payment systems. Experts would decide whether this function should be vested in a potential single currency of BRICS, in a currency basket, or in mechanisms to harmonize national currencies. There will also need to be mechanisms to prevent the weaponization of means of payment by any group of “select” countries or players ever again.
There was enough evidence between the 20th and early 21st centuries that neither a bipolar nor, least of all, unipolar world can cope with present-day increasing military, economic, and political challenges. The global hegemony of the West is failing to solve pressing problems and does not benefit anyone.
The future is not about trendy smartphones or virtual reality headsets; it is about conquering the solar system and finding cheap and sustainable energy sources. International cooperation in space exploration and energy research, primarily nuclear power studies, would play a tremendous role in these efforts.
It remains an important task to establish new logistics routes such as sea lanes similar to the Northern Sea Route or rail freight corridors that would be free from anyone’s hegemonic control. Furthermore, Russia should propose multinational projects to explore outer space, study new sources of energy, or build mechanisms guaranteeing unrestricted trade among all nations unwilling to donate their wealth for the prosperity of a self-chosen minority led by the US and the EU.
It is not money and knowhow that should play the main role in future transformations but people – people who are willing to cooperate, respect one another, have a shared vision of the future, espouse the same values, and feel responsible for their nations.
We should make a substantial contribution to destroying global systems of inequality and neocolonial oppression and to building an environment for genuinely equal cooperation that would bring together countries advocating justice and progress.
Of course, our confrontation with the West will not result in the collapse of liberal ideology, the downfall of the US, the dissolution of the EU, or the disbandment of NATO. We should not have any illusions. The outcome will be global balance. The US and its satellites will have to curb appetites that they have satisfied by exploiting other countries, Europe will have to deal on its own with the numerous problems caused by the ignorance of its current bureaucrats, while seven-eighths of humankind will become truly independent and will not have to build its future into the system of economic and social relations that the “golden billion” countries are trying to force on the rest of the world.
The future will be determined not by the diktat of a minority but by an open and constructive dialogue between the West and new global power centers such as Russia, China, the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Latin America, and Africa. This will not immediately make the world more predictable, but at least it will make it a more honest place where relations are based on mutual respect.