Such course of events makes more than relevant the question of the future of international institutions, the most important achievement of international politics in the 20th century.
Mankind went without constant norms and rules for most of its political history. Since the formation of the first states, collectives of individuals have reflected nothing but their own conscience and the strength of other collectives in their actions. In Europe, the role of arbiter was for a short time, less than 1,000 years, played by the Catholic potentate in Rome. The church did not have its own armies, but it did have moral authority. Moreover, the popes’ lack of their own military power, as well as their claim to the universality of spiritual power, did not allow the Holy See to become one of the ordinary states. And, accordingly, the values and rules that Rome tried to impose during the Middle Ages did not directly express anyone’s values or interests. Therefore, they were relatively fair, for the most part. At the beginning of the 16th century, European states became so strong that they became nonplussed with the power of Rome. Over the next 400 years, they lived practically without any institutions embodying the need to follow the rules. As a result of the Thirty Years’ War of 1618 – 1648, at least general rules of conduct appeared, therefore Kissinger in his book World Order defined the Westphalian system as “having not a substantive, but a procedural character.” This was a great achievement for its time, but it was far from an attempt to establish genuine, civilised relations between peoples.
The 20th century was the era of the largest and most massive wars – the First and Second World Wars, fought between 1914 and 1945. They turned out to be so monumental in scale and in terms of human suffering and threats to the existence of states that a real “political change” was possible, akin to what Edward Carr wrote about in his 1939 book 20 Years of Crisis. The balance of power in international politics took organisational form for the first time, although it somehow ensured justice for those who are weaker. In addition, in the middle of the 20th century, nuclear weapons appeared, and a group of five states – permanent members of the “nuclear club” emerged from the international community. Their military capabilities are so superior to everyone else, even in the case of France and Britain, that these powers are, in the words of George Orwell, “in a state of constant cold war with their neighbours.”
The appearance in international politics of a nuclear factor that is practically not auditable has made it possible to create an order in which justice for the selected five nuclear powers is inevitably supplemented by relative justice for the rest. During the Cold War, international institutions proliferated. It was not because of a mythical “appearance of global problems requiring global solutions”. Mankind always has faced challenges such as climate change, cross-border trade, and pandemics. Some even write that globalisation existed in the Bronze Age; it’s even hard to argue with them. But due to the fact that the balance of power has become global, international politics and the ability to regulate the behaviour of states have also acquired a global character. Over the course of several decades, this has turned out to be so natural that many theoretical beliefs arose that institutions themselves could change the behaviour of states.