Discussions about the coming multipolarity have become so universal that only American intellectuals, who remain faithful to the idea of complete US domination over the rest of the world, do not participate in them. The role of those who are looking for compromise solutions is assigned to their closest satellites in Europe, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.
The discussion about “polarity” of the international order has been dominant for several decades in the academic science of international relations, expert statements and, of course, statements by political figures. It is equally popular both among those who seek to preserve the unjust international order of the past and those who call for its change for the sake of a better, more just global order. For the past 30 years, a significant part of the attention of the reading audience has been concentrated around the question of which system – bipolar, unipolar or multipolar – exists at the moment, and, more importantly, would be the most suitable from the point of view of international security to solve the problems of survival facing individual states. In other words, the discussion on this topic is so active that one may involuntarily suspect that the problem is somewhat factitious.
In all discussions, the question of the number of “poles” is the centre of attention, and is considered decisive in providing a more comprehensive description of the balance of power in the global arena. The reason for this general obsession is that the use of this theoretical category makes it possible to simplify, as much as possible, the extremely complex picture of international reality, making it understandable not only for politicians, but also for ordinary people. In addition, the concept of a “pole” is quite easy to operationalise as a way to indicate the status of a state in the world hierarchy, if we recognize that it still exists. Numerous colleagues use the term “pole” to indicate that a power has a certain set of components of its power potential. We really like to talk about “poles” precisely because we choose simple and seemingly reliable analytical solutions. Whether they are always correct remains, however, in question.