A range of theoretical schools, from statist-normativist to realist, compete to discuss the new system. While the first one considers the already well-known ideological thesis for defining the new system – “democracy vs. authoritarianism,” the second one refers to a de-ideologized balance of power as its basis (taking into account the necessary minimum of geopolitical “cohabitation”).
Regardless of the content or intensity of the theoretical-ideological “clash,” the ongoing war in Ukraine has left no way for the Transatlantic Alliance to retreat in terms of critically rethinking its means of border revisionism in Europe. Moreover, the war was itself a strong reminder to Europe itself that any flirting with the idea of “strategic autonomy” at this stage is more of a pretentious ambition than a realistic vision, and that the United States still plays the role of guarantor (host) for “Old Europe”. However, it is no less important that after the collapse of the USSR, for three decades now, the states neighboring now the Russian Federation (including Georgia), hovering in geopolitical uncertainty, have been waiting for a timely clear position from the West for ending this geopolitical “semi-pregnancy”. The war in Ukraine finally exhausted the practical content of half-hearted, conventional approaches studded only with glossy declarations, and clearly demonstrated the uselessness of such approaches.
The schemes called in recent decades “rapprochement guides” or “roadmaps to integration” for geopolitically vulnerable geographies have become the narcissism of the modern era. The time has come for such cooperation in deeds, not in words, in which the division into seniors and juniors is replaced by a reconciliation of interests, and a genuine partnership is based on a correct and timely understanding of common challenges. And someone’s pathetic “uniqueness” or “exclusivity” will be replaced by convergence of pragmatic interests, rational thinking and action.
The fact is that in the process of modeling the future of national security, the perceptions existing up to now have moved from the boringly standard to the format of the uselessly standardized. As a result, the world has begun to move toward new, experimental versions of security solutions, the contours of which are only vaguely outlined at this point. It should also be noted that in order to achieve the necessary efficiency and effectiveness, it is not enough to pursue this process only through the prism of “the struggle of democracy against authoritarianism”. To achieve tangible results, it is equally a priority to thoroughly dismantle existing multilateral international mechanisms and replace them with new ones, or to radically reorganize them and transform them into institutions with real power – not just moral authority. Equally important is the establishment of a new economic way of thinking about security broadly, aimed at addressing inequalities or imbalances, and the need to reshape current ceremonial-protocol forms of governance into meaningful modern service providers.
Military conflict is not new to humanity. But systems-forming military conflicts that lead to a new balance of power and a system of relations (whether based on “order” or “disorder”) on a global scale are of particular significance. The war that began in Ukraine on February 24 last year belongs exactly to the category of systems-forming conflicts. Accordingly, it has a direct impact on both the regional and our nation-state development. The correct perception and analysis of the results of the war related to such development requires an adequate rethinking of our own expectations, building them on the real possibilities and available resources. In this article we will talk about some necessary circumstances or facts to better reason about the issue.
Choosing or not choosing one side: the possibility of the impossible?
The created disorder and uncertainty in the global balance of power begs one such very pressing question: How appropriate is it to continue to be guided by the so-called binary principle of dividing into two – black and white – in international relations? To what extent should expediency be overshadowed by considerations of, say, “morality” or “ethics”? Wouldn’t any opposition to the expedient approach be a kind of narcissism, self-deception, a futile and fruitless attempt to achieve a particular result for the country? This is an issue on which a full and objective discussion is only possible through an unbiased observation of the big, global picture, through a depoliticized and deideologized analysis of processes and trends.
One visible trend in the context of the current conflict is the refusal of a certain group of countries to choose sides. This kind of “multialliance,” adjusting to the balance of power in the newly emerging order, gives medium-sized and small countries the opportunity to maintain relations with the global poles (and in some cases, to actively cooperate). The reason for this is essentially that they do not have to make the kind of choices that are known as standing on the side of one particular confronting side to the detriment of the interests of the other confronting side. In a given order/disorder, such “hedging” in the external vector serves to manage risks and minimize threats in the short and medium term. It is clear that the desire alone is not enough to follow the line of non-choice by geopolitical hedging: it requires proper integrity, political skills, appropriate qualities and competence of the members of the leadership team.
It is worth noting that the major players are also ambivalent about the new international political formation. For example, the latest version of the U.S. National Security Strategy speaks not only about cooperation with strategic allies and partners. It is indicative that the U.S. foreign doctrine, contrary to the long-standing dogma of “democracy-autocracy,” has shifted toward a more open, relatively inclusive approach. And there is a rational explanation for this: in the struggle with Russia and especially with China over the distribution of influence in the world, it has become difficult to secure alliances with ideological clichés alone. Thus, the time-driven pragmatism in the foreign arena also determined the rationality of Washington’s approach. This manifests itself in ad hoc alliances or partnerships with historically, culturally and ideologically different (and sometimes sharply different) countries to solve problems. As a result, to strengthen its position in the new world, a global actor today needs to structure relations in a new way and invest in them properly. We would also add that this new foreign doctrine is clearly trying to look at the processes in a post-one-polar world through the lenses of realism. Moreover, for the sake of practical utility, the United States, as a participant in the new global system, uses very specific methods to pursue its interests, such as: A realignment from stated ideological straightforwardness to the creation of a more “nuanced” policy; Not engaging in an endless competition of “gift-giving” with other global players to win the favor of particular nations; Supporting the interests of other nations, securing them and considering them only on a reciprocal basis.
Of course, the so-called “multi-alliance” – the avoidance of taking any side, depending on the specifics of each country – is also a specifically realized choice. A good example of this is Israel, which simultaneously with its strategic alliance with the United States works closely with its main rival, China, in the economic sphere, and also has tactical cooperation with Russia on security issues in the Middle East.
It is also natural that the attitude of a global or any other major player to a medium or small country primarily serves the interests of the former. This tendency has become even more evident in recent times, with the major countries seemingly trying to avoid the intrusive role of “geopolitical babysitter,” acting with pragmatic agreement on goals and without automatic expressions of solidarity. Examples of this unity of interest include such situational-tactical platforms as the Quad, the Abrahams Accord, and I2U2.
Despite a number of drawbacks, this approach can lead to a more self-sufficient system of relations: its participants realistically assess each other’s expectations and clearly and acceptably define specific policy priorities. This approach is also perhaps the most effective response to pointless posturing and the waste of resources in international relations.
Continued in next week’s GT.
Analysis by Victor Kipiani, Geocase Chairman