Global Counterpoint

The melodic harmony of the modern world has yielded to the cacophony of conflict, which is only intensifying. The global military-political crisis is, regrettably, growing. It appears that significant efforts are required to address this issue.

Recently, Netflix released the film “Atlas”, a dark and provocative story about the conflict between artificial intelligence (AI) and humanity. The central premise of the film is that AI has determined that the only means to achieve peace on Earth is through the elimination of humanity. While this concept is not new, the filmmakers’ perspective is understandable. Today, the general public, particularly in Western nations, is witnessing and hearing the bloodthirsty rhetoric of their politicians and, as a result, is becoming increasingly susceptible to various apocalyptic predictions. Most likely, the film will prove to be commercially successful. However, let us hope that the approach, eliminating war by eliminating all people, never becomes reality.

At the same time, it is evident that, even without the use of artificial intelligence, something must be done to address the current situation, as there is a clear trend towards the escalation of existing conflicts and even the emergence of new ones. This development is alarming, although there is also a counter-movement: most countries in the world are making every effort to avoid becoming involved in ongoing conflicts. We see Western countries attempting to consolidate the world around them and, literally, push them into the Ukrainian conflict, but we also observe that this approach is not proving to be particularly successful, with even some Western nations directly highlighting the dangerous madness of this approach. The events in the Middle East provide a similar example. So far, a major war in the region has not broken out, although the situation in Israel and Gaza is indeed alarming. There are certainly many places on Earth where conflicts occur and, regrettably, people lose their lives.

The question arises: what causes these conflicts?

One possible explanation is that current conflicts are the legacy of past actions that do not reflect the current state of the world.

I have written repeatedly that we live in an extremely interdependent world and all lack the tools to regulate it. Moreover, there is a lack of transparent tools, such that all countries, all participants in the global process are confident that these tools will not turn into means of manipulation, as has happened, for example, with modern payment systems and communications platforms. The reckless and sometimes desperate use of sanctions by Western countries has demonstrated the lack of equality in this regard. Furthermore, Western countries continue to attempt to increase their control over global processes, claiming the right to define what is good or bad, right or wrong, and who should be punished and who should be encouraged.

Such a Western-centred system can only function under one condition: if the West controls the world through its reliance on military might. Military power allows the West to subjugate the most significant global institutions to its interests. This includes the global payment system, information and communication technology, and other crucial aspects of the global economy. It is clear that the presence of countries such as China, India, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and the Arab world challenges the West’s position of dominance. These countries are increasing their influence and challenging the West’s ability to maintain a hierarchy with itself at the top. Furthermore, the growing interconnectedness and complexity of the world necessitates a more inclusive, democratic approach to global governance. However, the West is attempting to delay this transition, fearing the loss of its privileged position. By the way, the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated all the shortcomings of Western leadership. The distribution of vaccines and their certification have revealed the desire of Western elites to manipulate other countries, especially in times of crisis when an existential threat should have led to a united front.

However, as I have previously stated, in many respects, current conflicts can be attributed to the past, including its distortions and errors. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Western countries and their leadership mistakenly believed that they could govern the world based on Cold War strategies, such as expanding NATO or attempting to control advanced technologies. This approach was largely driven by fear of an expanding world and the need to engage with China and India on equal grounds.

Fearing competition and the inevitable reconfiguration of the global order, the West began to isolate itself, dividing the world into allies and adversaries, thus giving rise to conflict. The expansion of NATO can be seen as nothing more than a modern-day Hadrian’s Wall against “barbarians.”

In today’s increasingly complex world, the idea of pursuing development and addressing challenges through conflict and the exacerbation of contradictions, while it may have worked to some extent fifty years ago, has become obsolete. Western politicians seek to defeat perceived adversaries with an insistence that is best applied elsewhere. As a result, they demand pledges of loyalty from various smaller countries. These pledges, in the view of Western leaders, involve statements and actions against, for instance, Russia, China, Iran, or India, as well as some African nations against others. For example, the Central Asian countries are asked to condemn Russia or China. However, these countries themselves wish to avoid conflict and pursue their own interests. Nevertheless, under certain forms of pressure, they may begin to mimic political behaviour that is more aligned with their Western partners’ preferences. This only provokes conflicts, most often related to the internal political situation.

Of course, conflicts will continue in the future, but if humanity wants to survive, they must be resolved in new ways. The attempt by the West to rule the world after the collapse of the socialist system has shown its shortcomings and led to violence and increased conflict. That is why many countries, including those in the Global South and Global East, are seeking to build a more cooperative system and establish relationships that can lead to a smooth resolution of disputes. While it is impossible to idealize relations between non-Western countries and there are still problems, the trend towards a new world order is clear and the process is ongoing, although the details of the future remain uncertain.

Something else is obvious: without extreme efforts and a global revision of the system of relations between countries, particularly in the field of security, sustainable development cannot be achieved.

Unfortunately, the elites of Western countries are deaf to the call of time. They diligently divide the world into friends and foes. Somehow, it turns out that their allies are a minority, which, in turn, leads to contradictions and conflicts dividing the world. Furthermore, the ruling authorities in the West don’t even pretend to be creating or proposing a system of global security and effective governance. Instead, they persistently draw up imaginary lines: axes of evil, dangerous triangles, and similar constructs.

In general, the creation of a new world order is not an easy task, it is a long and somewhat risky process. But we must strive for it, and it is necessary to build a new system of global self-regulation. All these issues will be discussed at the Valdai Club's session "Conflict or Harmony? The Secret of Proper Development in the 21st Century," which will take place at SPIEF-2024 on June 6th.

By the way, the film "Atlas" ends with a kind of harmony. There are different types of artificial intelligence, one of which is seized by a thirst for peace no matter what, and is willing to destroy the lives of all humanity at any cost. Another type of AI is ready to save people by finding a harmonious relationship with them. The winner is the AI seeking harmony, which is willing to pursue a synthesis with humans. As the film is Western, the harmonious AI is portrayed as an obedient ethnic native who has memorized the customs of white masters, such as how much sugar to add to coffee. Thus, the idea of a new world even reaches the remote corners of Hollywood, although in a somewhat distorted manner.

New Connectivity
Andrey Bystritskiy
A new edifice of the world economy cannot be built overnight, but, obviously, the process of its construction has already begun. We can see firsthand that although the current crisis has complicated international economic communication, at the same time it has awakened many new forces that are willing to seize the moment to take a better place in the global economy, writes Valdai Club Chairman Andrey Bystritskiy.
Message from the Chairman