The Goal Is to Streamline Chaos and Rationalize Diversity

The new emerging world rejects unification, generally accepted views and universal values. Competition has spread to the level of values, but it’s not a competition for the best set of values, but rather for the co-existence of a number of diverse models.

The Valdai Discussion Club is presenting its new annual report, which was prepared by a group of experts and discussed at a large conference in Sochi last fall. We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal: to formulate the basic principles of the nascent world order. We don’t expect this forecast to be absolutely correct, as this is next to impossible to achieve in the face of current international events, but we are trying to outline the contours of this nascent world order, using knowledge and collective intuition as our guide.

The year 2015 was the dividing line in the development of the international system. The erosion of existing institutions continued, but we also saw for the first time in years not only the collapse of old institutions but also the rise of new ones. A “new world order” appeared on the international agenda in the late 1980s, but no conscious efforts were taken to help it materialize. The architects have failed. But now that almost everyone has admitted that something has gone wrong after the Cold War, a new logic is rising above the current chaos. The system is trying to balance itself, even if in conflict with the desires of its component parts.

There are sufficient grounds to consider how the structure of a new world order will develop over the next few decades. Globalization, as it was interpreted after the period of ideological division of the world had ended, is now receding, but it has not yet given way to total separation. The once integral system is becoming less centralized and more fragmented and region-oriented. The emerging regional mega-blocs are not erecting barriers but rather are choosing to maintain close connections with each other. On the other hand, the rules of this interconnection are no longer universal and can differ from one organization to the next. The new emerging world rejects unification, generally accepted views and universal values. Competition has spread to the level of values, but it’s not a competition for the best set of values, but rather for the co-existence of a number of diverse models.

Close interconnection and tough competition are not only non-mutually exclusive but also are elements of the unbreakable symbiosis of relations. Cooperation goes hand in glove with mutual limitations. Sanctions and counter-sanctions, both direct and indirect ones, will become common practice. They are not necessarily the weapons of economic or political wars of annihilation, as it used to be in the past, but rather these restrictions on trade are a way to regulate relations in a world that has renounced centralized rules.

A new balance, provided it eventually develops, will be neither a Cold War-era-like confrontation nor a model from previous eras, for example, the classical diplomacy of the 19th century. Bipolarity as we knew it in the 20th century is no longer possible, as the world has become really integrated and interdependent and cannot be divided by any barriers or “curtains.” The balance of power in the spirit of the Concert of Europe (Congress System), which ensured some measure of predictability in the world from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the outbreak of WWI (1914), is no longer possible due to the existence of a large number of assorted players with varying abilities to impact events. And each of them indeed wants to influence developments in the world and can do this to some degree, although not always constructively.

The new order is not being built on the post-war ruins of the old order (fortunately we have avoided an all-out war so far), but is growing from the dialectical combination of competition and interdependence. Our task is to preserve as many achievements of the past as possible, notably, openness, the possibility of mutual enrichments, and the ability to overcome the development lag. At the same time, we must abandon the illusion that the world can be based on a pyramid of power and that all problems can be settled within the framework of a single model.

The world is facing an unusual challenge: to rationalize its diversity without having to resort to the instruments of either unification or suppression. Unification is impossible due to the presence of insurmountable cultural differences, while suppression will only have the reverse effect of creating new pockets of instability.

We see the development of a new and better-balanced system based on the interaction of two groups of countries – the Broader West (the US and its partners) and Greater Eurasia (led by Russia and China). The new “broader” communities are not per-say “integration” organizations, since integration, as it was interpreted in the late 20th and the early 21st century, will hardly survive today but will be based on more intensive forms of collaboration and common rules of trade and economic cooperation. Neither community will be unipolar, because history has shown that suppression is ultimately a destructive instrument. This new world is not a repeat of bipolarity or even a splitting of the world into two camps, but rather the dialectic of diverging and converging interests.

Contradictions will persist within these groups of countries, but they will be neither objective nor insurmountable. Relations between them will be described as both perpetually competitive and firmly united. These groups will join forces to fight chaos and non-systemic players, the most dangerous of which is present-day DAISH.

We posit in our report that the goal of politics, contrary to the illusions entertained in the 20th century, is not to create paradise but rather to avoid hell on Earth. Some may consider this conclusion gloomy, but it’s better to formulate your priorities without falling back on illusions. If some day global politics surprisingly lead to the creation of heavenly green pastures on Earth, then we will only be happy to admit that we were wrong in our pessimistic forecasts back in 2016. But there are no grounds so far to assume that the grass will be greener.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.