Back in the late summer of 2017 I wrote an analysis of the state of world affairs and international relations after two seismic geopolitical world events occurred almost simultaneously in 2016 – the UK Referendum result to Leave the European Union and the defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton by Republican Donald Trump for the White House in the US 2016 Presidential Election. Those twin political events were like major earth shaking bombs going off creating all kinds of disturbances and tremors, aftershocks and creating the greatest of shock and bewilderment within the international political order that had held sway since the defeat of Nazism in 1945.
It had become clear to me by the summer of 2017, as I had thought for some time, that politics in Britain – and global geostrategic politics within the broader historical framework of civilizational and human development – had changed profoundly and significantly from were we had been during the 1990s-2012 period, perhaps even from where I started off life in the most intense but ending days of the Cold War in the mid 1980s.
The UK EU Referendum result and the election of Donald Trump and rejection of Hillary Clinton have simply brought into focus that the world has indeed entered what many international relations experts have been discussing for sometime, the era of extreme global tension, so intense and great that it could trigger World War III. The state of international affairs and the tension within the international system along with the upheavals in the post-WWII 1945 international geopolitical, economic and security architecture have created the environment where misunderstandings and differences can now lead to profound policy implications for foreign affairs, international peace and stability and the course of human history. The world has now become what Europe was like on the eve of the outbreak of the World War I.
A new Cold War has begun, as I wrote back in the summer of 2012, it started some time ago. I placed the point at around 2012. For the great historian Michael Burleigh in his excellent work “The Best of Times. The Worst of Times,” a review of the current now in world affairs, it is around 2011-2013. For Burleigh it is not so much a Cold War more a transition phase of historical proportions on a civilizational scale. The most disturbing matter of all is that this new Cold War could be more deadly than the last. Yet it does not need to be like this and a Cold War mentality must be rejected of seeing Power Politics as the ultimate beneficiary of a State on State zero-sum game based on rampant mass national psychological manipulation and control. The International Community can yet avoid slipping back into a Cold War mentality even if it has now slipped into a new era of international relations, a 2012 New World Order.
This 2012 New World Order signifies the ending of the period of sole American superpower unipolarity after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The American unipolar moment has come definitely to an end in terms of its sheer unilateral ability to carry out enterprises such as the 2003 Iraq invasion or the preceding invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 combined with the damage wrought by the Wall St Global Financial Crisis of 2008. There has been a tremendous power shift to the East, most notably in economic and financial power, and of all the emerging economies and new mini-regional powers in the area, the most important of these and the most salient to the changes under way in this Great Global Transition, is one of the greatest countries and civilisation in human history, China.
The fundamental transformation in communications and information which the internet and social media has introduced into the public realm has completely upended the traditional process for Governmental policy making, diplomacy and political campaigning as well as the media and business and leadership in general. Technology is creating a virtual reality cyberspace world of enhanced globalisation but greater atomised individualism while inequality in the West is rampant as is social decay and breakdown alongside a serious problem in the Western Anglo-American democratic electoral model which seemed to prevail in 1989 and in general a deeper moral malaise of existential nihilism.
A global struggle for power is occurring on many levels. This is due to the breakdown of the global balance of power that has held sway since the end of World War II and the brief interlude of the 1990s. In my article in August 2017 I discussed the remoulding of President Trump around the traditional military-industrial complex with his penchant for military Generals. I also stated that the more liberal “West Wing” Democrats seemed to be in the ascent with the removal of Mr. Steve Bannon. The National Security Council seemed to be in better hands under HR McMaster while Rex Tillerson was showing some promise at the State Department but had already started to exhibit worrying trends.
That is the inclination in some parts of the American foreign and defence policy National Security Establishment to view this new era of international relations, this 2012 New World Order, as a period of Superpower Rivalry and Great Power competition. Nothing could be more destabilising and dangerous for the future peaceful and prosperous development of the planet through this Great Transition than following such a policy course and setting the United States on such a global posture. There is nothing preordained that the United States cannot remain the number one economy on the planet during President Trump's tenure and beyond for quite some time.
And even if China were to start to economically advance well above the United States in the decades ahead, America would still be pretty much number one in terms of overall assets. Besides that is a long way off and the planet is big enough for two powerhouse economies on planetary super scales. While China has transformed itself the likes of which has not been seen in human history and is on course to once again play a unique, special and critical role in world affairs as a Superpower, which it has been many times before throughout history, it is still a developing nation with all the challenges that a country of 1.3 billion people possess. It has no great wish to usurp the United States as the global policeman and Leader of the International Order. There is great potential for a deep and creative comprehensive and truly lasting partnership based on mutual admiration, mutual respect and mutual collaboration and trust between Washington DC and Beijing which together could be of enormous benefit for the development of humanity in peace and harmony. The work on North Korea which China has undertaken is a fine case in point of Chinese diplomacy contributing to the greater global good.
Over the course of the last few months President Trump has remade his administration again and with a new National Security Advisor John Bolton. It was very wise to get rid of Secretary Tillerson and also to reign in the Obama/Clinton pro-German wing of the State Department and US National Security community by replacing McMaster. However Bolton is an extreme American nationalist hawk and allied with the neoconservative movement which portends for some significant and serious ramifications for the making and influencing of American foreign policy going forward. The changes in the domestic personnel have also seen a shift which is worrying with the more moderate Goldman Sachs type of Gary Cohn who was the President's Director of the White House National Economic Council is gone. Instead the administration seems to be flirting with the Office of the Trade Representative Peter Navarro's ludicrous ideas for a Trade War with China which would be totally counter-productive and extremely damaging to the international order at this fragile and extremely vulnerable time, not to mention hurt America a great deal and the Republican Party in the midterm Congressional elections. There is no need for this and a return o protectionism such as that of the 1920s and 1930s could lead to the rise of a new form of extreme totalitarianism in power. Hopefully calm will prevail on this issue of major global significance. President Trump's new pick for Director of the CIA, the first woman to serve in the role, Gina Haspel looks also a very astute and good pick.
In this post-2012 New World Order the Asia-Pacific is a crucial theatre of strategic significance. As is Eurasia comprising the European Union, the UK and the Russian Federation. The Atlantic arena containing the United States and Canada is heavily integrated and connected through the Western Atlantic NATO Alliance with Europe and also the European Union. It had been my great hope, one of the highest of the incoming Trump administration, to see a successful, truly successful and enduring reset in relations between the United States of America and Russia in a final positive dynamic post-1991 based on mutual admiration, mutual trust and mutual cooperation in vital global national security interests such as combating the danger posed by the spread of violent and ideological jihadist Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear security. With Europe remaking itself due to the crisis over Britain's departure from the EU it seemed to be a propitious time to be imaginative. However nothing involving America, Europe and Russia is ever going to be suitable in terms of time.
It is pointless for two big and great strong countries like America and Russia not to have a positive and constructive dialogue and even partnership for the benefit of common interests. President Obama wanted to reset relations and have a good dynamic with Moscow as did President George W. Bush and President Clinton. It never really worked out and now the hopes of the Trump Presidency have nearly evaporated. US-Russian diplomatic relations and the bilateral US-Russia relationship are at their lowest and worst stage since the darkest days of the Cold War. I am shocked and mortified at the speed and deep deterioration in relations between Washington DC and Moscow since I wrote the last article on this subject back in August.
I am greatly disturbed at the speed and strength which the relationship seems to have nearly collapsed and the negative turn it has taken. I am very surprised at this turn of events as I had hoped the one bright spot of the Trump administration might be President Trump getting along better with President Vladimir Putin and utilising that relationship to get a better American-Russian and hence Global strategic accommodation for the Great Transition going forward in world affairs. Russia is a great country and deserves a new relationship with the West, especially a new and more vibrant respectful and harmonious relationship with America. A warm relationship.
The Russian people and Russia itself deserves a great deal more respect than how it has been treated and spoken of late. So the actions of the British Government of Theresa May regarding the stage managed and appallingly planned spiteful anti-Russian bigoted so-called Skripal poisoning affair in Salisbury, England has been a deeply shameful and irresponsible act of madness on the part of an increasingly irrelevant, trivial and useless Prime Minister badly damaged and leading a country in the midst of a collective Brexit nervous breakdown in no way fit for the duties of a serious responsible national actor on the global stage.
In this new era of international relations in the post-2012 New World Order, a more respectful and constructive understanding and approach is required to take account of Russia and Russian interests, legitimate security and defence political interests which were trampled on at the end of the previous Cold War. Russia is and will be a key power in the 2012 New World Order and together the Leaders of America, China and Russia can form a special strategic troika of global leadership to enhance global security, understanding, stability and development. Thus it would be in the best interest of the United States and the world for the Trump administration not to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war or if it really must keep it as limited and surgical as possible. The chemical weapons attacks over the last seven years have and are barbaric and beyond the conscience of humanity and civilised values but this war has been raging for seven years now and it will not be brought to an end with a belated American military intervention.
Furthermore, the British Government has known for some time that chemical weapons attacks were ongoing in Syria despite the 2013 autumn diplomatic breakthrough for their disposal. Why now is this such an urgent matter to be resolved when the British Government has known about it for over three and a half years? Such a time may have existed early in 2011 but President Obama chose not to intervene overtly militarily thus allowing a vacuum which Islamic State filled. Russia in many respects had no choice but to side with its only remaining Middle Eastern ally and listening post. Furthermore, after the disastrous US-UK interventions in the region in Iraq and then Libya not to mention the still continuing catastrophic war in Afghanistan the growth of al Qaeda/ISIS posed a clear and growing threat to Moscow and the region and world as a whole. The chemical weapons attacks are truly nightmarish but there should be no rush to judgement in a war just as the situation was measured in the autumn of 2013 before a intervention was proposed. The best course would be to let the Russians continue to exercise their influence over Assad and allow for a end to the conflict with a peace process instigated. Both Russia and Israel should team up to manage and contain the situation in Syria while the United States would be best advised not get itself dragged into and bogged down in another war in a Middle Eastern Arab Muslim country.
Yet the stakes are even higher than that. It would not just be a conflict fought against the Assad regime. The truly appalling nature of this crisis is that it could potentially lead to all-out war between America and Russia which would in all likelihood lead to a Third World War. That situation is inconceivable and it is deeply distressing that we have even arrived at that point in 2018 after only 27 years of the USSR officially having been dissolved. If a war breaks out between America and Russia there will not be much of the planet left for anyone to enjoy in the years to come.
That is what is most alarming about the growth of the anti-Russian xenophobia and hysteria in the UK fuelled by the right wing Tory Government of Theresa May and the near total collapse in US-Russian relations. How could we have arrived at this situation in the international community and global system in 2018 where after the End of History there is a serious and distinct geopolitical possibility of a real hot war between America and Russia over a proxy battle in Syria. How has the international political system become so tense and volatile that such a scenario after all the events of 1945-89 has emerged again and this time perhaps in an even more deadly form? Russia is not the source of all evil on the Earth and to believe so is not only deeply offensive but completely mad. As President Trump said when asked regarding President Putin: 'We have a lot of killers. What you think our country is so innocent?' Greater dialogue and understanding is needed to bring Washington DC and Moscow back together and ensure between President Xi, President Putin and President Trump a Troika of Statesman Leadership that can steer the world through its current choppy waters. A role of constructive partnership can be found for Russia with America and China. A solid, suitable and worthy role befitting of a great nation like Russia. There are so many opportunities and challenges to face as a world this century and together the capitals of Washington DC, Beijing and Moscow can be a Grand Alliance for good on the planet in the early 21st century.