Asia and Eurasia
How the World Majority Sees the Consequences of the Crisis in the Middle East

The experience of the twentieth century, acquired through incredible sacrifices and exhausting competition, was carelessly swept aside within two decades of the early 21st century. Such a mediocre squandering of previous achievements of international politics has led to the rapid bankruptcy of the West, which quite easily received the most privileges in the previous system of coordinates, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

Russians love to invoke the concept of the World Majority – a set of countries in the world that link their development with the main trends of globalisation, but are capable of expressing their own views on fair forms of international order. So far, this opinion has been expressed rather restrainedly, which can be explained by our common participation in a system of relations where Western countries not only play a leading role, but were also able, until a certain time, to offer relatively optimal solutions for everyone. However, recent processes, especially the crisis in the Middle East, may open a new chapter in how most countries around the world perceive the policies of the United States and Europe, as well as make it impossible to return to the previous world order.

Israel’s confrontational policy does not pose a direct threat to Russia, the United States or China, the main powers of the modern world, and they are not going to cross their swords over what the Middle East region should look like after the events of this autumn. But it would be short-sighted to underestimate the detrimental effect that some features of the position chosen by the West have had on the credibility of the United States and its allies among the world community. This means that the conditions in which the international order of the future will emerge are becoming more complicated. Let us try to summarise how the countries of the World Majority, especially the Islamic world, could evaluate the actions of our American opponents, their allies in Europe and, most importantly, the consequences of all this for international politics.

Based on the results of the countless discussions that have recently been held with colleagues from the countries of the World Majority, we can say that the most capacious characteristic they give to the behaviour of the United States is a simple statement: the West is erasing its own previous achievements. The arguments in favour of such an assessment seem to be roughly as follows: in recent days, a wave of demonstrations in support of the Palestinians besieged in the Gaza Strip has swept across the world.

Meanwhile, Western leaders, like a mantra, have repeated formulaic statements about full support and readiness to go all the way with Israel, despite their own citizens protesting against the one-sided military solution to this conflict, not to mention the people in Muslim countries. These peaceful and, so far, not-so-numerous demonstrations can be reasonably considered as harbingers of more complex processes that are brewing in light of the short-sighted policy demonstrated by representatives of the White House administration and their followers in Europe.

The most important thing that worries our colleagues in the countries of the World Majority is that several narratives, which had practically disappeared in previous years, are returning to the agenda: the United States of America and the Christian countries of the Old World bear the main responsibility for the troubles of Muslims and their destruction in wars and conflicts; they also provoke confrontations, leading to economic crises, hunger and unemployment in developing countries.

The formation of such a perception of the West completely negates the enormous diplomatic efforts made in recent years to strengthen the moral authority of the states and societies of the so-called “blooming garden.”

No one in the world denies that the United States and Europe have done a lot to develop the global market economy. However, now, according to the assessments that have been voiced, they themselves are destroying everything they’ve achieved. A huge part of the world’s population has clearly become convinced of the boundless cynicism and duplicity of the political elites, brought to the top of the power hierarchy by the vaunted democratic system. Due to their obsession with the current election cycle and their own career ambitions, the current leaders of the West aren’t hesitating to jettison the enormous achievements of past years in building trust in international relations and a balance of interests at the global level.

Few people now think about and calculate how much work has been invested by American and European diplomats, government and public organisations in supporting various social development programmes in Muslim countries, establishing interreligious tolerance, protecting human rights and promoting other values of the civilised world. The result of simple political manoeuvres in recent weeks has been at least an increase in terrorist threats, which has been confirmed by numerous warnings to their citizens from the authorities of the United States and other countries. A state of extreme polarisation and sustained radicalisation of citizens’ views on religious grounds promises to become everyday reality.

In the future, there is a possibility of direct involvement of the West in a military conflict in the Middle East, which risks becoming very bloody for all its participants. I would like to note that we in Russia feel much less of the threat posed by a possible new split than those colleagues who live and work in Islamic countries, which are especially sensitive to the challenges of religious radicalism and extremism.
Therefore, the decisive policy of support for Israel by the United States and Europe is a threat not only to peace in the Middle East, but also a potential source of tension in a huge number of states.

Another concern of the countries of the World Majority is related to the fact that the current tense situation in the world will no longer allow anyone to project military force with the same impunity as in the recent past, when world powers recognised each other’s “red lines” and maintained a respectful attitude to opponents. The development of the conflict in Ukraine, accompanied by an unrestrained and open transfer of arms, has erased one of the most successful chapters in the history of mankind in building peaceful coexistence among former adversaries. Many decades of developing mechanisms for the non-proliferation of weapons, and implementing joint control and confidence-building measures were not only lost, but have become unretrievable. Most countries in the world linked the implementation of their main development goals with the international reality that arose after the Cold War. Now it already looks like utopia. It is with this awareness that the lost experience in training new generations of diplomats and military personnel will be assessed.

Asia and Eurasia
Dilemmas of the World Majority
Timofei Bordachev
We are dealing with a rather unique example of a struggle in which the forces of the opponents are approximately comparable, although the superiority of the West is significant. We absolutely do not know how the countries of the World Majority would behave in conditions where the USA and Europe launched an offensive against a weaker adversary: for example, against Iran or another country of a comparable scale. Therefore, we cannot say to what extent the self-confidence of those countries that do not obey US orders now, would manifest itself in a different situation, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

With great bewilderment, people around the world are looking at how the leading Western media cover events according to directive patterns, and objectionable content disappears from the pages of social networks. Countries that have been severely tested and externally criticised over freedom of speech sometimes find it difficult to find the right words to speak out about the latest standards of “cutting-edge journalism” regarding the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. The current collective policy of Western countries in the international arena increasingly nullifies the previous phenomenal successes of its “soft power”. Today, in most countries throughout the world, there is less and less interest in Western fashion and the film industry, which aggressively promote non-traditional values. The American Dream and Hollywood, instead of eliciting delight as they once did, often prompt rejection and misunderstanding. The “mainstream” set by Washington in Europe is also losing ground.

The world sees that in the West itself, more and more ordinary citizens are asking the question: how much do officials from overseas and in their own countries care about their well-being? The simultaneous growth of radical right and left-wing forces amid the complete failure of centrist parties confirms growing disagreement with the current state of affairs.

The experience of the twentieth century, acquired through incredible sacrifices and exhausting competition, was carelessly swept aside within two decades of the early 21st century.

Such a mediocre squandering of previous achievements of international politics has led to the rapid bankruptcy of the West, which quite easily received the most privileges in the previous system of coordinates.

Such waste of stability and benefits is, of course, beyond the means and liking of the countries of the World Majority, where the path to prosperity is paved with hard work and is accompanied by many hardships and lurking dangers. It is also unlikely that a situation where the West is faced simultaneously with the threat of terrorism, involvement in a shooting war in the Middle East, and geopolitical and geo-economic confrontation with a group of influential world powers will delight the masses in their countries. It’s time to think about the direction in which the construction of a new world order is moving: this is the position of the majority of countries throughout the world, which need not the destruction of existing rules and norms, but their observance as the basis of international stability. Russia needs to take these approaches into account even more than its opponents in the West.

Economic Statecraft
From the Middle East to Ukraine. A Milestone
Ivan Timofeev
The outcome of the Ukrainian conflict, whenever it occurs, will be a fundamental milestone in the order that is taking shape right before our eyes, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Ivan Timofeev.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.