There is a growing belief that we alive right now are inside a semi-invisible World War IV and that in this conflict one side has an inherent edge. We should take a look at this concept to see if it there is any truth to this and if this particular advantage affects global affairs.
WWI was the most horrible accident in history between the great empires of Europe leading to their ultimate suicide. In their ashes the 3 big ideologies of the 20th century, Liberalism, Communism and Fascism fought for control of the future in a two-on-one battle. The victors then directly went into an indirect conflict spanning decades that we call the Cold War. But ultimately due to it global effect and proxy conflicts all over the planet perhaps we should start calling it WWIII in children’s text books. The Communist losers of the Cold War were either reformatted and pillaged (Russia + Warsaw Pact), reduced to vassals (China) or became even more irrelevant (Cuba). Capitalism won and on the surface things seemed peaceful. But then someone gave a historic speech in Germany.
There is a growing school of thought Putin’s historic Munich speech in 2007, was the opening salvo that lead to the current situation that we are in. If WWII and III were battles for a dominant economic/political system to emerge, then this time the question is more nuanced but just as divisive – how will globalization take place, to what ends and who will have a seat at the table?
The Munich Speech coming from the leader of one of the resurgent players on the losing side of the Cold War made it clear that Russia would not quietly go off into the night, fading away under the rule of a world molded around the United States. This is where the whole “Multipolarity” concept got its first popular exposure. The Russian side proposed that there were numerous great civilizations on Earth representing various poles of power and going forward each of them would retain their distinctive culture and have a voice in the continued development in our globalizing world. Obviously, Washington has by their actions silently declined this offer. The Beltway has a much different vision.
On the surface one of the explanations for the current tension between Washington and Moscow is Russia’s return to the world stage as an actor that can counterbalance the actions of “the big dog”. This has certainly been seen in Syria, but perhaps the real battle we are in now is between a Multipolar and Monopolar vision of the future even if this objective is vastly more obtuse than the semi-obscured Cold War.
One is free to believe that without a declaration of war, there is no war, but we have definitely seen over time two camps in this war of words emerging. The West (USA, UK, EU, NATO) vs. The Rest (China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, etc.) and there is an idea that in the end the Multipolarity side will win due to an inherent “Russian Advantage”.
If one is to build a Monopolar world then it requires the absolute and total destruction of every possible adversary along with a complete integration with and control over the entire planet. This thinking is on display in the “Project for a New American Century”. If a new rival or rivals emerge then the Monopolar world simply cannot be or will be set back for generations and in many ways this is exactly what is happening right now. The #2 economy in the world is not particularly inclined to be the West’s personal sweat shop anymore, and Russia, facing extinction has risen from the ashes of defeat to provide the ideological core for the Multipolar side. Turkey is perusing its own foreign policy boldly around Cyprus, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh and looks like it has gone semi-rogue as a NATO member. The thing about Erdogan’s Turkey is that it either proves or disproves the theory of The Russian Advantage.
The Russian Advantage is that in this battle for a Multipolar world, any civilization that rises up to peruse its own interests is seen as a victory, even if this nation would be hostile to Russia itself. Turkey certainly fits this bill on all accounts.
Washington has to completely dominate the entire world to win, the Russians and friends just have to resist by surviving and getting along to an extent – a much easier proposition on the surface. One army has to take every fortification in the land at bayonet point, the other just has to hold a few of them.
But there very well could be a counter logic to The Russian Advantage that is never spoken of anywhere on the “RU-net”- the fact that “divide and conquer” still works. The Russian Advantage has been used as a means of explaining why Moscow has tolerated various acts of aggression from Turkey and time and again has chosen dialogue and partnership for the most part. It would make sense from Moscow’s perspective to show tolerance and play the long game as an independent Turkey that is trying to respark its Ottoman past creates yet another pole of power. But what if Turkey in its seemingly maverick moves in its near abroad over the last decade were actually much farther within the realm of their NATO obligations than it would seem. Due to the geopolitical layout Turkey and Russia have been at odds for centuries, and if anyone could be played as a fake member of Team Multipolarity it would be Turkey regardless of whether the Turks are aware of this fact or not.
Fear of the hegemon and the NATO bases surrounding Russia, China and Iran have perhaps expedited the necessity to get along and take pictures shaking hands. But many of the other possible poles of power that could theoretically exist like Sub-Saharan Africa and Central/South America may not be as willing to stand for some ideological victory, than the Russians or Chinese who see their impending “containment”. Perhaps if the Multipolar side continues to wait for others to rise up they will be waiting for all eternity allowing Washington to win.
Furthermore, Moscow may have vastly deeper insight into the future of the United States than I but just waiting for Washington to finally melt down is not exactly a strategy for guaranteed victory. Doomsday prophecies about the national debt, crumbling infrastructure and other problems have been signs of “the end” for decades and yet America is still #1.
Even if it looks like the U.S. is nailing its own coffin as fast as it can from the blogosphere perspective, it still has the strongest geopolitical position on Earth, has total domination of its own media and exports more than anyone else and it is the home to the massive international corporations that both the Russians and Chinese depend on. All roads still lead to the American Rome.
In conclusion the logic that many Russian thinkers are banking on, that this current ideological war we are in is winnable mostly through simply surviving does make sense, but is not a flawless strategy. Passive and reactive planning gives your opponent control of the game, even if they may seem to be at a disadvantage. This reasoning does however explain the logic behind many of Russia’s decisions from a foreign policy position – any result is better than collapsing again and time appears to be on Russia’s side.