Neither cold nor war – Valdai Club


Therefore, the United States always acts from the position of the most important participant in international communication, but at the same time it operates under conditions where the reinstatement of the previous order is impossible. The countless sanctions against Russia and China are only confirmation that the return of leadership to the United States is no longer the domain of realpolitik. The result of such chaotic actions has only been an even greater destabilization of international politics and the paralysis of institutions.

We can talk indefinitely about the fundamental reasons for this development and how to ensure the stability of international relations. But for the most part, these discussions rest on the hypothetical possibility of a return to the reality of international politics after the end of the Cold War. However, this is impossible and the more evident it becomes, the more frightening the new reality and the new normalcy of international relations appear.

International politics based on a balance of power is indeed the least comfortable result from the point of view of public perception. It must be recognized that peace is nothing more than an interval between the active phases of power confrontation, and that making it permanent is generally impossible. In other words, it rejects the whole system of interstate interaction that developed in the second half of the 20th century. In such an international order, institutions become nothing more than instruments for solving particular problems and cannot claim to regulate the behavior of states. Military force and the threat of its use are becoming a permanent feature of international relations. In other words, world politics is developing “in the shadow of war”, to use Raymond Aron’s definition. Such circumstances, we must admit, are neither familiar nor convenient.

This is why, during expert discussions, comparisons between the current situation and the state of affairs at the time of the Cold War (1948-1990) appear more and more often and seem more plausible. This is not surprising, as these events remain the closest historical experience to a large-scale military confrontation between the great powers. From the point of view of public opinion and politicians, it is quite difficult to draw convincing analogies with the experiences of two or three hundred years ago. None of the current politicians lived in this era and therefore they are unable to find any analogies there with their modern experiences. In terms of the degree of mutual hostility between states and their willingness to create risky situations, modern international politics really resemble much of the second half of the twentieth century.

At the same time, from the point of view of the science of international relations, we obviously have no right to follow such a simple path and assimilate the new reality to the period of the Cold War. First of all because the Cold War was indeed a unique experience in which the power struggle was not only complemented by antagonism on the ethical ground, but rested, in many ways, on this very antagonism. The USSR and the Western countries professed different ideas about the proper internal structure of the state, although in all other respects their confrontation was indeed imperialist in nature.

Indeed, the opposing powers today also share different values, but the differences that exist between them are by no means as existential as those that prevailed during the struggle between communist and liberal ideologies. The main content of the ideological factor in modern international politics is associated with these internal transformations in Western societies, the consequences of which seem frightening from the point of view of more traditional social and gender relations. However, such disagreements may become more serious in the future. Russia, which is part of the non-Western world that is historically and civilization closest to the West, could find itself in the most difficult and vulnerable position.

So far, at first glance, things seem much simpler. Russia and China, like the United States, are market economies, and the differences between the three consist only of forms of government intervention in free market activities. China, of course, claims to be building socialism. However, this official task of the PRC government reflects a vision of an ideal for itself, and not an intention to spread such an ideal everywhere.

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