From Rossiiskaya gazeta, Oct. 27, 2022, p. 6. Complete text:
The allegations that Kiev is plotting a “dirty bomb” false flag attack have reached the world’s highest possible level this week. Regardless of what is behind this collision, it is a clear symptom of escalating international tensions – the same as the Nord Stream explosions, which were an unprecedented attack on critical supranational infrastructure. No doubt, the conflict around Ukraine is a reflection of acute and long-standing disagreements. But if that were the only problem, [these] events would not have had such a global impact. The world system has reached a turning point beyond which [its] structure will fundamentally change. This process is inevitably accompanied by upheavals, so the Ukraine issue is not the last one.
The annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, as always, analyzes the state of the world today. The main change is the end of the historically short period of hegemony, i.e., the dominance by a limited group of countries on a global scale. Hegemony in this case is not an evaluative category, but an essential one – a certain organizational type of global governance with a single center and a system of subordinate institutions. The dominance of the US and its allies became a continuation of the system that was created in the second half of the 20th century following the loss of its built-in balance. Nevertheless, the design itself has been preserved. It could be said that the principles of the hegemonistic system were laid down after World War II – it is simply that the world’s “steering committee” was somewhat more representative at the time. The report prepared by the Valdai Club is called “A World Without Superpowers.” It posits that in the [emerging] new world order, the superpower function as such is disappearing. And this is not only and not so much about the decline or rise of individual large countries. The structure of interrelations per se is changing.
The ability of a superpower to control spaces (up to and including the global space) is only partially predetermined by military force. What is far more important is the ability to create regulatory frameworks that other countries join voluntarily or by coercion. Voluntarily is preferable: After all, coercion always has a limited shelf life. On the other hand, the understanding that close interaction with a certain power will make it possible to receive the necessary resources for development – from security guarantees to finances and technologies – is far more stable. As for the opportunity to tap these resources, as a general rule it involves the necessity to sincerely or ostentatiously share the ideological-ethical approach of the donor country. The change that is currently taking place is structural. Because of the shifting balance of forces and opportunities, the viability of the aforementioned and rather exclusive function is limited. Even for all of the US’s accumulated power, it is just barely enough to maintain the circle of only its closest allies. Even so, politics is becoming increasingly geared toward self-interest, not communal. As for those outside an alliance, there is not enough leverage – either positive or negative – to influence them.
[There is not enough] positive [leverage] – not only due to its decline, but also because countries now have alternatives. In addition, many of them have built up their own potential. Negative [leverage] – i.e., pressure – is now working far less effectively than before. The best case in point is the failure [of attempts] to force “third world” countries to join the anti-Russian coalition. Granted, the end of hegemony is not the main issue. What lies ahead is far more interesting. How will the global system be structured in the absence of regulation by superpowers, i.e., countries with special privileges and prerogatives? The multipolarity that has been awaited since the end of the last century has materialized, but in and of itself this only means a lack of centralized governance mechanisms.
They have been lacking for a greater part of history. International politics has traditionally been a chaotic medium, with ties between states determined by a correlation of forces. Most of the time, this has meant constant wars. But there were periods when these forces reached a state of balance, which ensured interim periods of peace.
Right now, in a sense, the situation is returning to the past, but only outwardly. We simply don’t know how to create a balance with so many internationally important players (and there are at least two dozen) and with a totally different interpretation of the concept of “force” as such (in addition to military, this also applies to economic, regulatory, discursive [and] technological force). Such difficulties did not exist before. But globalization, understood as the close interconnectedness and integration of the world, has not gone anywhere. Its structure will be different; its liberal version is over and done with; fragmentation is inevitable, but the connection between the components of the international system will not be severed. And this cohesion is emerging as a determining and safeguarding factor of global politics and economics. This is the leitmotif not only of the Valdai report but also of all ongoing discussions at the forum, which – probably much to readers’ surprise – this year sound far more optimistic than could have been expected.