It has been said many times in recent years that the old order is finally a thing of the past, but a new one, alternative and truly effective, has yet to be established. Today, we also know (although some will probably argue with us) that the old system is not only disarmed in the face of the current multifaceted crisis, but cannot even theoretically formulate an unambiguous answer to all the acute questions in this poly-crisis environment. The expectation that economic integration at the global level, and the networking of the world with trade links, would be an effective prevention of conflict and extremism has proven to be an illusion. The crisis in international relations caused by the pandemic has confronted the entire security system with one very specific, inevitable and most fundamental challenge. This challenge is called self-reformation, and it is in itself the kind of danger that a system of any kind that is in the process of necessary reformation, in the absence of good governance and balanced priorities, may not be able to overcome at all.
Though it is a fact that the process of realignment has begun and the variations of a possible future world order are to be outlined, it is also clear that it is premature to talk about the final contours of this or that variation, at least until the redistribution of power in Europe as a result of the war in Ukraine has happened, as has the rebalancing of power in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. Presumably, these two geographic centers will determine the establishment of a new balance of “world domination” in the Eurasian space. However, the available factual and theoretical material allows us to make some observations. We will now set out to share this observation with our readers.
Before broadening the topic, we believe it would be useful to highlight several important factors characteristic of the context that emerged in the wave of the establishment of a new order in the current international environment.
Deglobalization or Globalization Reset?
Regardless of how the question is posed, one of the critical trends of the incipient new (dis)order can be seen right on the surface. First of all, it is the structuring of the system of relations in the post-Cold War period, the characteristics of which can be summarized as follows:
More regionalization. We have more than once said that the new “systemic” order will be characterized by enlargement and strengthening of the role of established regional geopolitical centers. And international relations of the new model will largely rely on such regional “gravitational clusters,” and the relative global stability and predictability of events in the area of a major regional center will be based on the interdependence of such major centers. We can already see the regional networking (hub-and-spoke setup) in terms of security and economy in the form of a number of defense and trade alliances. Today, the large Black Sea region is already referred to as one of the main regional hubs of this new “system”. This trend of regionalization will deepen even further in the foreseeable future, since the force that will turn this process around is not yet evident. As a result, the degree of the new interconnectedness of the global (dis)order will be manifested in the degree of interconnection and interaction of major regional geographical-political centers.
Economic self-sufficiency: This is a case that is referred to differently in different sources, be it “economic nationalism,” “concern for one’s own average citizen,” “protectionism,” “new economic isolationism,” or others. In any case, this phenomenon implies less dependence on unreliable or unfriendly foreign geographies of production or supply (if possible, even complete withdrawal from them), strengthening one’s own economic sustainability in the conditions of said regionalization, and ensuring the functioning of a crisis economy with one’s own (domestic), self-sufficient infrastructure and human capital.
It is likely that a slowdown in the transition to so-called ecological capitalism, a reduction in the consumption of oil and natural gas, will be associated with the same factor. Particular attention should be paid to structural problems in the Chinese economy, which against the background of deteriorating demographics and increasing social obligations will have a direct impact on the global economic (and not just economic) situation.
A turn toward realism: That is, a reality in which unconcealed or not so skillfully concealed self-interest is the main driver of decision-making. Behind the scenes, international relations have never been devoid of conjunctural interests. However, recent processes show that doing business on the world stage will become even less ideological, and the principle of trade off, the same as transactionalism, is likely to be elevated to the level of public policy. And Georgian politics must adapt to this reality and equip itself with the appropriate skills to realize the national ego (more security/better economy).
The power factor: Since the end of the Cold War, the overt use of force to advance one’s own interests or influences has increased again. The expenditure of resources on improving weapons or modernizing defense forces is reaching new heights. It is indicative that even when the issue is still being discussed at the diplomatic level and has not entered the “hot phase,” there is still a chill of the possible use of force in one context or another. Indeed, a relationship based on realism, along with other related principles, assumes that the weak hear the voice of the strong, listen and, when necessary, adjust to it. At the same time, as long as there is no proper authoritative “higher authority” in the universe for the just resolution of conflicts, and international law has no power other than moral law, physical resources or kinetics once again become a factor to be reckoned with. This, too, is a sad reality with which the Georgian political process will have to face up to, continuing to maintain and adapt proper state systems in accordance with it.
Security in a broad sense: In our time, security has practically gone beyond the understanding associated with “armor” and has moved into a much broader dimension. The reasons for this can be found primarily in the change and diversification of threats. As a result, if we only go beyond the narrow content of defense and the armed forces, the so-called “armor security,” we will see a number of such challenges, the failure to meet which directly harms national security. It is our internal conviction that the main challenge in this regard is poverty and social inequality, which can be exploited by an external aggressor and which also provide fertile ground for internal extremism. This is easier to assume when one considers the unconventional nature of contemporary conflict, where one does not have to shoot a bullet to achieve an objective. The variety of methods available today, from cyber sabotage, to the overt or covert use of trade sanctions, to the manipulation of public attitudes through disinformation, can offer an attacker a far more effective route to the desired malicious goal. Among the security vulnerabilities, energy and food supply, as well as a lack of state spirit and proportional restraint in the media, are particularly noteworthy. Thus, in terms of the old and new nomenclature of security risks, from Georgia’s point of view, it will again be crucial to coordinate reliably the three-member system already mentioned: Proactive diplomacy, prevention-oriented intelligence services, and soft power projection mechanisms.
Convergence of systems of governance: Perhaps one of the most controversial and contradictory trends is that different political systems (except, of course, the outright authoritarian ones) are moving toward each other. As a result, we will have more similarities than differences between these systems over time. Elements of similarity (a kind of convergence) should be sought mainly in the de-ideologization of decision-making, as well as in practical actions aimed at ensuring quality of life and security (broadly speaking). It is clear that this will be a very long and difficult process. It is also evident that the deterioration of the security environment and the manipulation of the political agenda will be the main obstacles to this process. However, it is just as likely that the understanding of the image and reputation of public administration will change fundamentally here again: Such image and reputation will be measured mainly by governance, measured by concrete results and by the effective provision of relevant services (economic opportunities, social equality, personal security) by the state to the citizenry.
Read Part 2.
By Victor Kipiani, Chairperson of Geocase