Wider Eurasia
Are International Institutions Viable in the Future World Order?

It will be significantly easier to the Western world to gradually accept that its resources are finite than it will be for those who currently find the dominance of the United States and Europe unsatisfactory to establish new models of collaboration, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

One of the most significant challenges that the global community of nations is currently facing in relation to the dismantling of the Western hegemony is the concurrent risk of the collapse of the entire framework of international cooperation: both in terms of practical implementation and its conceptual underpinnings. However, this could also present an opportunity for the rest of the world, including Russia, to develop new institutions and frameworks in the decades to come, which would bear little resemblance to those that exist today. This is likely to be necessary, since the current system of institutions, norms, and values that have emerged over the past several centuries has been constructed around the dominance of a select group of states, and is fundamentally designed to serve the interests of that group. Therefore, it would not be feasible to replicate existing practices, even if they were highly successful, and there is no need to attempt such a course of action.

However, new practices may not be able to achieve the same level of success, simply due to the fundamental principles that are embedded in them from the outset.

On a practical level, this implies that countries outside of the “collective West” will not be able to replicate in their interstate relations the practices established to coordinate the efforts of the United States and Europe in suppressing the rest of the world. Among the most successful international organizations of the modern world, the G7, NATO, and the European Union stand out. However, these organizations are highly specific in their objectives and internal structure, aiming to safeguard the special rights of member countries in their relations with other nations. This is why various smaller former Soviet countries are seeking membership, and Turkey remains a member of NATO. In such a community, even the smallest player receives benefits that are unattainable by any single power acting alone.

The fundamental principle behind the success of such organizations is also related to this: they all serve as instruments for the organized distribution of various public benefits. In the case of NATO, these benefits include comparative security, while the European Union provides economic advantages. The G7, on the other hand, was established as the highest authority for coordinating Western policies in relations with other countries.

Furthermore, following the Second World War, the institutions and political systems of the Western world underwent a significant transition. Previously, during the period of European colonialism, their alliances were composed of equal members and therefore often unstable. Now, a notable feature of Western institutions is the presence of a strict hierarchy and a vertical structure of power, organized along the lines of “leader and followers”. In fact, this structure has allowed the West to function as a cohesive entity and has so far enabled it to maintain its privileged position in relation to other nations.

It is important to note, however, that the establishment of this hierarchical system, with the United States at its apex, was a result of the two world wars in the twentieth century. During these global conflicts, the sovereignty of substantial economic powers such as Germany and Japan were completely undermined.

The rest of the major Western nations have also lost the ability to independently determine their foreign and defence policies. This is, in fact, the secret to peaceful cooperation among the countries of the Western alliance — all but one are deprived of the capacity to act in a revolutionary fashion.
Wider Eurasia
How Well Do We Understand Modern Europe?
Timofei Bordachev
Our ideas about Europe and desires related to its place in the plans of Russia, China or the rest of the world (except the United States), dictate our policy towards it. They also act as limits to the objective assessment of this partner at the academic and expert level. However, this does not mean that we should completely follow political logic and abandon any desire for a diversity of approaches to assess Europe’s role in the world.

We can state with certainty that groups such as the BRICS and, at the regional level, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, cannot replicate the model that has made the Western world so successful. Firstly, the objectives of its members are not to exploit the rest of humanity. Consequently, the level of coordination of national policies also cannot reach such a high degree. Simply because, by participating in BRICS, for instance, countries do not address the most fundamental issues of survival or achieve development objectives. In other words, everything the West creates is aimed against the rest of the world, and there are no exceptions. Those who now oppose the West, whether through harsh opposition like that of Russia or through the pursuit of softer alternatives like that of India and the Arab countries, do not initially orient their policies towards combating all humanity. Therefore, they will find it difficult to create an alternative form of institutional cooperation.

Second, the organizational structure of new alliances of countries from the Global South cannot be based on a single leader model. Therefore, large countries such as Russia, China, and even India have not joined the Western bloc because, due to their structural differences, they cannot accept the unquestioned authority of another major power to fulfil all of its demands, as Europe does with the United States.

Now, the Global South is seeking to establish its own institutions, but for objective reasons, it still has a long way to go in understanding how these institutions can function without being replicas of Western models. This applies even to more specific areas of cooperation, which are strictly regulated within the West according to internal power hierarchies.

However, the theoretical aspect of the issue is equally interesting.
In this regard, even the very concept of “international order” may prove to be controversial and even unacceptable in some respects in the future.

The fact is that the entire conceptual framework which allows us to discuss international politics in a relatively consistent manner, was developed under specific conditions that were inherent in world events over the past five hundred years. This implies that we cannot currently determine how relevant the content of well-known concepts of international reality will be in the coming decades.

For instance, the “Westphalian order” is a concept that emerged as a result of a legal resolution of an intra-European conflict between the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, with little relevance to the rest of the world. However, due to the dominance of Western powers, this order — as a mechanism for interstate relations — has since spread across the globe.

In essence, the current system has been imposed on other countries. A notable example is China, which became “connected” to the Westphalian system through the military aggression of European powers in the early 19th century. This could lead to a situation where the words used by political leaders and scholars will become meaningless.

An important question for the future is how Western countries will integrate into the new international order. The presence of large stockpiles of nuclear weapons in some states does not guarantee that the United States and Western Europe will not be militarily defeated, as has happened in the past with empires. Instead, they will continue to exist in some form, and all countries in the world must find ways to accommodate the West as a full member of the global community of sovereign nations.

In this regard, the United States may have a better chance than Europe due to its self-sufficiency in terms of basic resources. However, the main obstacle to US cooperation and more appropriate behaviour is the lack of convincing efforts by Russia, China, India, and others to limit Western privileges.

To summarize our preliminary analysis, we can state that achieving gradual acceptance by the Western world that its resources are finite will be significantly easier than establishing new models of collaboration for those who currently find the dominance of the United States and Europe unsatisfactory. However, if (or, rather, when) such a development occurs, it will provide an opportunity for significant progress towards more civilized modes of international interaction. This, naturally, cannot but instil some optimism at this time.
Wider Eurasia
Signs of a New International Order
Timofei Bordachev
The World Majority countries do not set themselves the task of breaking the existing international order and destroying globalisation. However, they are gradually increasing the degree of their independence in determining foreign policy decisions and economic partnerships, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.