Today, as in past epochs, the search for an international political balance is accompanied by intense confrontation between major powers and military blocs. Not surprisingly, mutual hostility is emerging as the dominant mode in relations between Russia and the West. The checks and balances of the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act are now a thing of the past. Any hope of building an inclusive European security architecture or developing tools to restrict military activity and provide greater transparency have been dashed, as have cooperative approaches to resolving differences. All of this has been replaced with furious rhetoric, a broad range of methods to weaken the enemy, and a military build-up in the direct vicinity of the Russian border. The West’s policy in Ukraine testifies to the revival of proxy conflicts as a means of inflicting a strategic defeat on adversaries at low cost, with someone else doing most of the dirty work.
Addressing the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the “revolutionary, tectonic changes in geopolitics, the global economy, the technological sphere, and in the entire system of international relations.” He once again underscored the bankruptcy of the plans to preserve the unipolar world order, adding that the “building and shaping a new world order is no easy task”.
At this new stage in its development, the international system is rapidly relapsing into the same kind of bipolar confrontation it left behind 30 years ago. The stereotypes of “bloc thinking” are being revived; the gap between the sides is only growing larger and the language of containment is already dominating contacts. At the same time, there is less proficiency in wielding the tools of crisis balancing which reflects a partial loss of acumen.