The Decline of World Politics

The current succession of conflicts and disruptions on the global stage seems destined to remind us that although only three decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, the world hardly resembles the one we imagined at the end of the bipolar order in 1989/1991.

Then, the fall of the Berlin Wall led to a wave of optimism. Promises of freedom, democracy, human rights and open economies seemed within reach. The collapse of Eastern Europe socialist regimes had been followed by the dissolution of the Soviet empire. Ceasing its existence as a geopolitical reality and as a subject of international law, the once all-powerful Soviet Union had fallen like a house of cards.

The Russians had lost their empire and the Americans had lost their enemy. Deprived of his strategic contender, Washington emerged as a colossus. Never in recent history has a power acquired such power in relation to others. To the point of becoming -in the terms of French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine- a true “hyperpower”. But when the benefits of the “Pax Americana” seemed assured, History knocked at the door. Imposing her designs, once again.

Because while we were dreaming of paradise and the “End of History”, September 11 arrived. An atrocity meant to remind us that we lived in a world full of dangers, in which no one was entirely safe. Not even the most powerful nation on Earth. The one that would be hit again a few years later in the global financial crisis (2008), whose epicenter was generated in the US itself. Two events called to mark the prelude to our present. The one that would definitively close those illusions to lead to a present characterized by the very bad relationship that the great powers have been developing in the recent past.

Which could have -according to Alberto Hutschenreuter- arrived to a turning point in 2014. Starting with the collapse of Russian-American relations caused by the annexation -or reincorporation according to the Russian narrative- of Crimea. Provoking the downward course of international politics that would end up being perfected with the universal pandemic (2020) and the “return” of the interstate war that followed the “special military operation” launched by the Kremlin on February 24, 2022.

But the truth is that those events closed cooperation between the great powers. Those that seemed united by the challenge that transnational terrorism implied in the late 90s and early 2000s. To lead to this present, in which the US simultaneously confronts China and Russia. With the harm that this entails for Western interests. While, at the same time, imposes objective limitations on any possibility of addressing major global issues.

Today, the global order that emerged at the end of the Cold War seems to be in question. Especially because at least two of the first three powers in this world consider that it contains unacceptable doses of illegitimacy. To the extent of leading one of them to initiate a revisionist policy, which includes the direct challenge to the world order based on the elementary rule of the inviolability of borders.

It is within this framework that we are witnessing a series of disruptions on the global scene. The COVID 19 pandemic was followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Which exacerbated the virtually endless conflict drawn from ancient rivalries arising from the crucial issue of NATO expansion. An irritating point that in turn places Washington and Beijing on opposite sides.

Which lead to a conventional war with thousands of deaths. But that tragedy is not an isolated event. Because as we have seen, once again, the poisoned politics of the Caucasus would return to the front pages of the newspapers. With the collapse of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the humanitarian drama that tens of thousands of Armenians would go through.

To conclude on the tragic events of October 7. When in a heinous terrorist attack, Hamas provoked the largest attack in the history of the State of Israel. Reliving the endless drama surrounding the Palestinian question while unleashing the most brutal genocidal hatred against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

From Ukraine to the Caucasus and from the Caucasus to the Middle East, the resurgence of ancient geopolitical conflicts suddenly warns us to what extent the dreams of that “New World Order” have been buried.

Perhaps these are the main notes of the time in which we live. In which the urgent need emerges for the great powers to find a minimum understanding around some balance of power capable of providing the international system with a certain amount of stability.

Which is equivalent to supporting the imperative of a global order aimed at guaranteeing a balance of power capable of managing the conflicts that persist on the world stage. Those which can only be achieved through a realistic diplomatic effort that aspire to the modest but indispensable attempt to seek approximate solutions to virtually insoluble problems.

About the Author
Mariano Caucino was Argentine ambassador to Israel (2018-2019) and to Costa Rica (2016-2017).