Unipolarism vs Multipolarism: apocalypse coming?

A few days ago I happened to review the cartoon “Asterix and the Kingdom of the Gods”, based on the immortal writings and drawings of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo.

The similarities with what we have experienced (and are experiencing) from the birth of the “unipolar moment” onwards are perfect and, in their simplicity, give a whole series of food for thought for anyone interested.

Sometimes, in the midst of analyses, documentaries, interviews and anything else of this kind, something lighter but equally significant can be useful to broaden the audience of people who try to understand our “geopolitical time”.

Therefore, it is possible to say that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dissolution of the USSR led to the birth of the unipolar period. Years in which the triumph of liberalism seemed to have led to the “End of History”.

Or at least that’s what in and the West have tried to make believe.

A world where liberal values had taken over. They had become “universal” and indisputable.

Years in which the export of democracy and humanitarian interventions “in favor” of the populations who suffered them were considered salvific.

Absolutely outside the International Law and/or in any case with ultra-extensive and convenient interpretations of the decisions taken by the United Nations Security Council (for example, “Libya case”).

Considered saving yes, but “alas” only by the senders and not by the recipients.

From Iraq to Yugoslavia, just to mention a few, a popular movement and governments hostile to what the Eur-Atlantic axis advocated verbally and often put into practice concretely was recreated.

A non-uniform and fully compact movement but which has its glue in the “multipolar idea” and in the hostility to the unipolarity led by the Washington.

From Latin America to Asia, from Africa to Oceania, popular movements and political changes are upending the status quo, creating significant changes in the four corners of the globe.

Just to name a few:

BRICS reinvigoration, with countries queuing up to join.
Saudi Arabian misalignment from the “once” granite alliance with Washington.
Upheaval of the French position in Africa, with the expulsion of Paris' military contingents from Mali and Burkina Faso (will Niger be next?).
Reinvigoration of ALBA – TCP in Latin America & the Caribbean, together with the continued development of CELAC.
Constitution of “unpublished” axes (but not too many) and born precisely from a multipolar perspective, such as the strengthening of Iranian relations in Latin America in recent years (especially with Venezuela).
Political repositioning of the Solomon Islands in Oceania through the stipulation of an agreement with China (with a clear anti-Western function).

Leading this attempt at epochal change and acting as a “multipolar beacon” are Russia and China, which a few years ago signed a “limitless partnership” and even today continue their deep collaboration despite Western pressure and the conflict in Ukraine.

Precisely the latter is to be considered as the keystone of these changes, the button which, once pressed, unleashed a decisive acceleration in the attempt to modify the global geopolitical landscape and in the clash between unipolarity and multipolarity (until now developed instead in slower and less direct way).

Clash between defenders of unipolarity vs promoters of multipolarity which is being seen in various contexts, including:

Continued Israeli interventions in Syria and Iran to limit Tehran's influence in the region and prevent it from developing a nuclear program. Increasingly massive and decisive interventions (such as the one with drones on January 28, 2023). High risk of expansion of the conflict, at least at the regional level.
Continued tensions between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, with the rebel island strongly supported by the USA. Very high risk of conflict in that area, with probable external intervention when weapons are used. To put it in the thought of General Michael Minihan of the US Air Force (made public on January 28), reported by MercoPress among others:

“US Air Force General Michael Minihan wrote in a publicly released internal memo that he predicted an armed confrontation with China by 2025. The head of the Air Mobility Command predicted that China would invade Taiwan in 2025 using the presidential election of 2024 in Taiwan and the United States as an excuse and a distraction, respectively. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” the general wrote. Chinese President Xi Jinping “guaranteed his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan will hold presidential elections in 2024, which will give Xi a reason. The United States will hold presidential elections in 2024, which will give Xi a careless America. Xi’s team, reasons and opportunities will be in harmony by 2025,” Minihan said. The four-star general also told his subordinates to train more aggressively and take care of their personal legal issues. […] Meanwhile, an AMC spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of Minihan’s memo: “His order builds on the Air Mobility Command’s seminal efforts last year to prepare the Air Mobility Forces for a future conflict if deterrence fails.”

But it is precisely the conflict in Ukraine that has revealed the cards, which has forced the world to take sides on one side or the other (some more decisively and some less, but certainly in a more glaring way than before – 24 February 2022).

In this regard, the March 2022 vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the Russian intervention in Ukraine was very significant:

141 countries that condemned Russia.
5 against.
35 abstentions (including India and China, which in 2 make up about 40% of the global population).

The importance it has and the risks that the conflict in Ukraine entails are therefore there for all to see: it is not, in fact, only a clash between two countries but also concerns development models, opposing geopolitical visions and opposing international alliances.

A conflict that therefore does not limit itself to involving the parties directly involved but embraces interests and visions of the world that have the entire globe as a border.

To put it in the words of Alexander Dugin (very close to the thinking of the Russian political élite):

“[…] The West clings to the impossible dream of hegemony. The conflict in Ukraine is the world’s “first multipolar war”, in which Russia is fighting for the right of every civilization to choose its own path, while the West wants to maintain its totalitarian hegemonic globalism […]. Multipolarity is not against the West as such but against its claim to be the model, to be the unique example of human history and understanding […].

When the Soviet Union self-destructed in December 1991, it left control of the world to “global Western liberal civilization”. This hegemon is now refusing to accept the future in which he would be not one of the two, but one of the few poles put in his rightful place as only a part, not the whole, of humanity […].

(Today) the West is “pure totalitarian liberalism” which claims to have the absolute truth and tries to impose it on everyone. There is an inherent racism in Western liberalism because it identifies Western historical, political, cultural experience [as] universal […]. In multipolarity there is nothing universal and every civilization can and must develop its own values. In particular, Russia needs to overcome centuries of Western ideological domination and create something new, fresh, creative which yet directly opposes Western liberal hegemony, open society, individualism, liberal democracy[… ].”

A clash which, therefore, will guarantee a pre- and post-conflict in Ukraine.

The world is not and will never be the same again, as opposing worldviews are colliding with actors who do not have the possibility (even if they wanted to) to return to their previous status without upheavals in one direction or another.

An explosive situation, therefore, which can only really and long-term end in two ways:

An agreement that does not contemplate a simple Russia - Ukraine ceasefire but that is broad and includes all global powers. Certainly the most desirable solution. Simplifying, a new Congress of Vienna. Obviously updated to the present day.
A direct confrontation between Powers which would risk leading to nuclear catastrophe.

To put it in the words pronounced in 2015 (and today more than ever) by a great analyst named Giulietto Chiesa:

“[…] I am deeply worried because I think we are on the eve of war, of a great war. What is happening before our eyes is the beginning of the third world war. […]. Can we stop the war? Perhaps. But I believe that there are some very pressing reasons why this war is being waged, it is being prepared before our eyes and that the probability that it will happen is much higher than that it won’t. We are in great danger. […] The crisis in Ukraine is the beginning of the offensive of the United States of America and Europe […].”

In conclusion, therefore, it is realistically impossible to predict 100% whether a direct war between nuclear powers will actually break out.

The clash between those who defend the unipolar order and those who promote the multipolar one is between giants (in economic, cultural, military, political and social terms) and venturing into certainties would be wrong and misleading.

However, it is possible to state that the many dramatic and extremely dangerous crises that have occurred and are developing around the world (and which see the participation of nuclear powers) do not bode well for a future of security, peace and prosperity for all peoples of the planet.

The continuous escalations we are experiencing, first and foremost the one in Ukraine, leave no room for a Politics and Diplomacy capable of trying to resolve the different views in an essentially peaceful way.

And non-military crises due to an inadequate redistributive and wealth system are also the order of the day and exacerbate the situation.

All seasoned with a substantial lack of communication between the main competing geopolitical players.

“What to do?” the Father of the October Revolution would therefore say even more than 100 years after his original writing.

He urges a complete rethinking of the global geopolitical architecture that has governed the fate of the post-Cold War world, also meeting the demands and expectations of the new players who in the meantime have “come out of hibernation”.

Latin America and its people are no longer that of the Monroe Doctrine, China is no longer that of “unequal treaties”, African peoples are no longer those of nineteenth-century colonization and Central Asia is no longer just that of the Soviet period.

The world is changing and the political élite must understand this, sitting down at a table as soon as possible to discuss new and more shared rules of the game.

The other side of the same coin is covered by the peoples of the world, who must push for a positive change in international relations and for the creation of a system free from scandalous inequalities such as those of today.

In the words of Pope Francis: “It is necessary to mobilize all knowledge (and consciences) […] to overcome misery, poverty and the new forms of slavery, as well as to avoid wars.”

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