The increased geopolitical game between different integration initiatives will not result in a coherent political unification. At least not in the near future.
The writer is an expert in contemporary world history teaching at the International University of Sarajevo (IUS) and the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Sarajevo.
The world is trembling. Scholars all over the world believe that the long-awaited return to the “old normal” following COVID-19 will be possible, whereas the post-Ukrainian return to the old international order appears to be a fairytale that is hardly reachable.
Liberal hegemony in crisis
Today’s problems are immense while the aims and intentions of world powers continuously conflict with one another. That’s why discussions on unipolarity, multipolarity, and generally global politics have infiltrated almost every house in the world; endangering the everyday life of citizens not only from a psychological perspective but also by concrete changes with vicious impact.
Food shortages, lack of energy, and questions about the UN’s efficiency substantially impact people. Recalling the “war for medical equipment” in 2020 and the “war for vaccines” in 2021, nations, particularly those from the Global South, are concerned about what it will look like when basic foodstuffs become a geopolitical tool. Indeed, food has already become a geopolitical tool.
First, the liberal hegemony crisis (yes, that is right) causes these changes by allowing world powers to shift their positions for the future order and their influence. China was strongly convinced about it in 2016 when Brexit happened and Trump — as a bearer of isolationist policy instead of universalism — became the US president. The pursuit of liberal hegemony, as the main characteristic of US foreign policy during the Cold War period, inevitably began to fade. It looks like a promising concept due to the war in Ukraine and the partial revitalization of NATO and Western unity. Still, a time-consuming geopolitical battle already creates cracks in that commonality.
American militarism intertwined with the concept of inalienable rights hardly works as a universal value anymore. It lost power and credibility, although it is more acceptable than Russian autocracy or “socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era” over decades. Simply because the foundation of that approach is rooted in the aim to protect life even in the “foreign,” “unliberal,” and “undemocratic” environment. Over time, it became a battle over values in which liberalism once must prevail. It was more vital to defend liberal diversity (or, to put it another way, the dictatorship of a liberal paradigm) by rejecting traditional virtues than it was to preserve Palestinian lives, for example.
The very cause of liberal hegemonic tendencies became weak. So, cultivated diversities under the liberal paradigm, under the umbrella of a liberal “universal” concept, realized that they are the paradigm itself. Moreover, they understand it is time to shift toward their own worldview.
Of course, strategic withdrawal under the guise of “imperial overstretch” led to the emergence of the Anglo-Saxon brotherhood and the treatment of the EU as a partner capable of serving as a keeper of US interests toward Eurasian powers, resulting in a new concept in US foreign policy.
Multipolarity, polarity, apolarity, or what else?
The competition is getting bigger, and the stakes are rising. The increased geopolitical game between different integration initiatives will not result in a coherent political unification. At least not in the near future. But surely it is not something that the West and so-called liberal democracies should cheer up. There are no key benefits from it for the liberal order. Instead of political unification, multipolarity emerges as a disharmony period in which new axial poles with their own worldviews and values originate.
Two superblocks? Possible in the future, but new global regions are logical consequences. The power, influence, and overall ability to protect the population’s well-being in their zones are in a fog, not evident yet. But does it also imply real multipolarity, in which world powers have the authority to shape global politics and establish Yalta 2.0? It is more appropriate to define this transitional period as polarity, as recently argued among intellectuals.
One of the key grounds for taking that argument seriously is the undeniable rise in prominence of small and medium states. Powers will have to listen to them and also please them. The Hungarian case in the EU and Viktor Orban’s “wayward son policy” are good examples. Mexican rejection to participate in the Summit of Americas, which started on June 6, is another significant case. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it clear that he cannot support President Joe Biden’s decision to exclude Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba from the invitation. Both are witnessing a simple fact; the redefinition of powers’ position has started, which will last for a certain period.
Within these new realities, diplomacy will be dominant. To reach balance within the region (geopolitical body) and in the second step to establish a balance among regions will create massive space for different types of negotiations and agreements. Anglo-Saxon world initiated these processes by creating AUKUS, Russian Orthodox Pan-Slavism for the 21st century is an ongoing process under the concept of the “Russian World” and its variants, and Chinese positioning in the Eastern Hemisphere as the main power, especially in the Indian Ocean. Others are waiting, not sure how to act and at which principles. It is strange that nations in Muslim Geography cannot define their own interests and frame them within regional cooperation. Where are the values and principles? Unlikely. Impossible.
Finally, a specific response to the article’s title is that apolarity will not lead to anarchy. A particular disorder will appear but as a phase toward establishing a multipolar world, a disordered phase for the ordered world. A world ordered anew.