Conflict and Leadership
Power Politics Makes the World More Predictable

There is no longer any ambiguity regarding the evolution of the international system. Moreover, in some situations, power politics can play a constructive role. So, in Eurasia, conditions are being shaped the formation of an extensive Eurasian concert, analogous to the European concert of the early 19th century, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.

The growing contradictions of the leading powers and military conflicts between them have forced experts to calculate new risks and create an especially nervous media background for an average citizen. But at the same time, these fault lines make the world more predictable. Opposing countries develop mutual deterrence strategies that prevent open conflict. In some situations, the return to power politics leads not only to more predictable international relations, but also to their stabilisation.

Consider, for example, the key international trends of recent years. We are in the midst of a novel coronavirus pandemic, which, as it would seem, has made international relations more complex. But let’s try to look at the fundamental processes that are not affected by these developments. The key trend among them is the formation of a polycentric world order, which is based on a new balance of power between the leading powers. The process of the formation of this dynamic equilibrium is occurring in the course of strategic competition between these countries.

The main field of disagreement and competition between the powers is the space for determining the principles of the functioning of the new world order  the confrontation determines primacy in deciding these principles. The second key process is geopolitical acceleration  a metaphor by which we describe the acceleration of the speed of political changes in the world. The leading powers compete among themselves, which strengthens their own sovereignty, primarily in the military sphere. We are witnessing a new round of the arms race, especially regarding missiles and weapons that can be placed in space. The acceleration of the pace of events, by strengthening the sovereignty of leading powers, increases competition between them and leads to the weakening of traditional unions. On the one hand, this increases uncertainty due to the fact that there is de-consolidation within historically existing blocs and partnerships, such as NATO. Noteworthy here is the recent friction between Turkey and France regarding the crisis in Libya. These trends are complemented by the general process of strengthening national egoism and separatism. Peoples, including small ones, strive for self-expression and in some radical cases require national independence and statehood.

This increases the likelihood that the leading powers will opt for the use of military force in local and regional conflicts. But at the same time, the interdependent nature of world processes makes the military resolution of conflicts between the leading powers costly and ineffective. As a result, the probability of using force increases, but not in a catastrophic way.
All this gives rise to a new phenomenon, which we call the “festival of provocations.” Essentially, this is a series of episodes in which military force is used by the parties secretly or indirectly through their “proxies". Another tool of pressure is sanctions and large-scale media campaigns that form political pressure, intimidating the average person.

The most obvious field of strategic competition between the powers remains technology. Three principal techno-economic platforms are taking shape: around the United States, China and Russia. Each of these platforms has sufficient technological groundwork and economic weight to offer its closest partners an ecosystem of products and services that is closed in itself.

Deepening geopolitical frictions are taking place in the context of accelerating climate change, one of the indirect consequences of which is the situation in global healthcare. The novel coronavirus pandemic has become clear evidence of the close interconnection of processes in the field of demography and environment. However, neither climate change, nor the pandemic, in essence, change the fundamental process for international relations  the formation of a new balance of power and a polycentric order.

We dare to say that the dominance of power politics in this new international environment makes the world more predictable. There is no longer any ambiguity regarding the evolution of the international system. Moreover, in some situations, power politics can play a constructive role. So, in Eurasia, conditions are being shaped the formation of an extensive Eurasian concert, analogous to the European concert of the early 19th century. The largest and most influential powers of the continent take part in this concert: Russia, China, India, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others, which compete for influence and mutually restrain each other in many instances. Moreover, the relations of most of them are based on the recognition of mutual interests, relations of equality and non-interference in internal affairs. At least, it is these conditions, based on the tradition of political realism, that are seen in most of the continents capitals as a starting-off point for reaching a compromise.
It is noteworthy that Russia, which is an exemplary realist in foreign policy, participates in the formation of such relations not only in Eurasia, but also in the world as a whole.

It is symbolic that during the Victory Parade in Moscow on 24 June 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, military units from Armenia and Azerbaijan, India and China marched in one formation. This, like nothing else, underlines the viability of a realistic approach to assess the international situation in conflict-stricken regions of the world. So, power politics, amid conditions where there are equal opportunities for opponents, makes the world not only predictable, but also more stable.
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Expert Opinions
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