Western values ​​alone will not win in a global conflict – GIS Reports

Instead of endlessly invoking Western values, the democratic world should respond to global tensions by restoring its true economic and political strengths.

Technocracies replace democracy, destroy the freedom and credibility of the West. © GIS

In March 2018, I wrote a comment titled “Is the world safe from a major war? Even earlier, from the start of the GIS in 2011, we warned of issues that could lead to the outbreak of full-scale conflict.

At that time, conventional wisdom still held that globalization would prevail and that all-out confrontation between major centers of power was unlikely. People in the rich world lived under the illusion that the Western-led, rules-based international order and its model of liberal democracy would only spread further. The word “war” was banished from serious argument, and Europe allowed its defenses to deteriorate. United States President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into his eagerly awaited presidency. Convenient invocations of “Western values” disguised inaction, crowding out political and security realism.

Double standards

Now, it is certainly important to uphold humanitarian principles. But it seems that, hypocritically, double standards are applied. Obviously, “realpolitik” sometimes leads to a certain cynicism in international relations. China is an important trading partner and investor; his persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority is left unanswered by Western governments – apart from a few verbal admonitions for the consumption of their political clientele. No sanctions or other harsh measures were imposed. Moreover, the Beijing regime’s brutal persecution of Christians is barely mentioned, as is its longstanding oppression of Tibetans. At the same time, Western media and politicians ruthlessly treat – often without seeing the big picture – small nations, like Turkey.

This is not only unfair, but also an unintelligent perception of global conflict.

New powers, not just Russia and China, have begun to challenge Western hegemony.

At the last G7 summit in June 2022, an alliance of liberal democracies was announced. The group includes the United States, EU member countries, the United Kingdom and other Anglo-Saxon countries such as Canada and Australia, and Japan. Now recognizing the cracks in the democratic bloc, these countries find themselves in, as they call it, “a systemic conflict” with China and Russia.

During the Cold War, we talked about the free world struggling with oppressive communism. Now, with a certain arrogance, we speak of democracy versus autocracy. The danger of such a claim lies in the erosion of freedom in an increasingly dogmatic Western system; we are witnessing the transformation of a democracy into a centralized bureaucratic technocracy.

It is hardly surprising that different countries and cultures adopt different political systems. For a long time, the West developed a narrative of having a superior system and insisted that other regions emulate it to share in the growing prosperity. After the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 – a dangerous power determined to expand its oppressive model globally through military force, subversion and the utopian allure of world revolution – this assumption seemed to have come true.

Things did not turn out that way, however. New powers, not just Russia and China, began to challenge Western hegemony, mainly represented by the United States. While the American superpower maintained its strength, the European position weakened.

However, the West – and particularly Europe – still sees itself as mandated by what it perceives to be its unparalleled values ​​to retain the position of supreme arbiter of good and evil. In my view, systems of governance, in many cases democracies, that protect the life and liberty of their citizens are preferable to all others. But it is dangerous to make such a pretext the heart of foreign and security policies.

two blocks

Currently, we see the Western bloc, forged in the fateful G7 meeting by US President Joe Biden, rising up against Russia, China and their satellites such as North Korea and Belarus.

This pits the Western bloc of some 1.4 billion people against a Eurasian bloc of some 1.5 billion people. But how does this bode for the remaining 5 billion of the world’s population?

The Western doctrine of global values, however excellent it may look and work for the West, is seen by many other countries as an illegitimate intrusion into their affairs. This irritant provides opportunities for China and Russia to increase their influence in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Note that India, which seeks military collaboration with the United States against China, does not support sanctions against Russia.

A strong narrative urging his political stance has its dangers. This led to Russia invading Ukraine to its own catastrophic detriment. Belief in the supreme value of Western democracy is also dangerous in foreign affairs. It breeds intolerance and disrespect and weakens the pragmatism needed to seek mutually beneficial solutions in conflicts. It should be remembered that many cultures view Western values ​​as neocolonialism.

We better be careful. Indeed, the United States is still the strongest military power in the world, thank goodness. But what about Europe? We need to consider our competitive position instead of feeling morally superior and judging other countries. Some have already learned the hard way that Europe has become far too dependent on Russian energy because of political rent-seeking and visions of green utopias. Another unhealthy addiction is fertilizer; Europe imports them mainly from China but also from Russia, to meet its basic agricultural needs.

Undermine the foundations

What is even more important for Europe is that its countries genuinely respect democratic and free market values ​​at home and do not sacrifice individual freedom and responsibility on the altar of opportunism.

Unfortunately, the West is quick to deny its past; European countries are giving up their unique characteristics and patriotism to mediocre multiculturalism. Patriotism means loving and respecting one’s country and region and being proud of it. It does not imply a sense of superiority over other countries or cultures, as extreme nationalism would have it.

Surveys show that in some European countries, the proportion of citizens declaring themselves ready to defend the fatherland and values ​​in battle has become alarming. In Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, the figure is below 20%; in France, it is less than 30%. A clear majority is only visible in Finland, Turkey and Ukraine. These shocking results show the harmful effect of cultural alienation.

The trend stems from a combination of excessive and limiting legislation.

The West has adopted a dangerous “liberal-democratic” arrogance that is out of step with the desires and aspirations of other parts of the world. While many would love to share in the prosperity gained through free markets and entrepreneurship, there is still reluctance to graft Western solutions home. Here we return to the feeling of neocolonialism mentioned above.

Paradoxically, while boasting loud and clear about its values, the West is working to undermine the foundations of its historical success: individual freedom, personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, competition, property rights, freedom of opinion and expression are on the decline. The trend stems from a combination of excessive and limiting legislation. In addition, extralegal pressures that limit academic freedoms and impose restraints on opinion and speech, such as radical gender movements, exaggerated political correctness, “cancel culture”, “awakening”, etc. .

What to do?

As during the Cold War, we are entering a new era of fragmentation. China and Russia want to consolidate and increase their geopolitical weight. Their narratives – in addition to showing the two powers’ aspirations and claims for hegemonic positions – also refer to the real and perceived weaknesses of democracies.

The West must also consolidate its positions. When the G7 forum was created in 1973, its seven member states generated more than 70% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). Since then, the figure has fallen to more than 40%. Other parts of the world have rapidly increased their share and demanded a greater say in global decision-making.

The danger that the free world will not succeed in global conflict exists, and war cannot be excluded. Western systems have been weakened by technocracies that continually replace democracy and limit freedom.

Old democracies must do more than promote their so-called values. The systemic confrontation with China and Russia is accelerating. It will be important not to alienate the rest of the world with condescending arrogance, protectionism and flimsy policies. Western countries must also improve their internal functioning and adjust their social, economic and fiscal policies to renew the strength of democratic systems.