End of the Unipolar World

Monday 22 September 2008, by Ceyda Turan

08.08.2008 marked the end of a unipolar world. The launch of the Beijing Olympics highlighted the re-emergence of China as a world power and the end of US hegemony. However Russia’s invasion of Georgia- and the emergence of Southern powers show that the post-American world will not necessarily be a bipolar one.

On the first day of the Olympics, as the eyes of the world turned to China, Russia invaded Georgia- an American ally. For the first time since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Moscow rolled over a sovereign state. The message to West-leaning countries in the region was clear: America would not, perhaps could not, protect them.

Putin’s landmark speech at the Munich Security Conference of February 2007 sheds some light on today’s developments. In it he said that the unipolar world the US and NATO were seeking to create was unacceptable, and that NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics constituted a serious provocation.

The Eurasian ideology that pervades Moscow views not only the former Soviet Republics, but also the former Iron Curtain countries as its natural sphere of influence. Putin added, “The new centres of global economic growth will inevitably be converted into political influence and will strengthen multipolarity.”

The US ignored Putin. It started installing missile defense schemes in Eastern Europe, recognized Kosovo’s independence, and continued with its efforts to create an energy corridor in the Caucasus that excluded Russia.

NATO carried on expanding into Eastern Europe to include Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. This process of slow encroachment ended on 08.08.2008. By invading the South Ossetian enclave in Georgia, Russia challenged the US’s monopoly on the unilateral use of force, threatening the West for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

The old East versus West paradigm seems alive and well at the United Nations as well. A month ago, Russia and China vetoed U.N. sanctions against Zimbabwe, which were proposed by the US and the U.K. This sent a clear message that Russia and China would neither permit the US and its allies to expand their political control in Africa, nor would they allow them to dictate the Security Council’s agenda.

The rebirth of multipolarity is not only about the re-emergence of traditional superpowers like Russia and China but also- and more importantly- about the emergence of new players from the South.

The World Trade Organization’s Director-General Pascal Lamy recently announced the collapse of the Doha Round. The WTO held the bloc led by the intransigent BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the uncompromising United States responsible for this outcome. Although large southern countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa have many contradictory interests and ally with the West in varying degrees on a wide range of issues, the collapse of the WTO has showed that they can stand united in the face of considerable pressure.

What multipolarity will mean for the people of the world is up for debate, but if two heads are better than one…

À propos de Ceyda Turan

Titulaire d’une maîtrise en développement international de l’Université de Londres (SOAS) en Angleterre, Ceyda détient également un diplôme en science politique et développement international de l’Université McGill. Originaire de Turquie et ayant étudié dans le monde en développement, elle connaît bien les enjeux du développement international. Elle a un intérêt marqué pour des questions touchant les droits humains et a entre autres collaboré au Kurdish Human Rights Project de Londres comme traductrice en plus d’assumer le poste de secrétaire de la section locale d’Amnistie Internationale à SOAS. Avant de se joindre à l’Institut des politiques sociales et de la santé de l’université McGill en tant qu’assistante de recherche et de communication, elle travaillait au sein du programme immigration et employabilité d’Alternatives. Elle continue contribuer au Journal Alternatives.

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