The End of Multilateral Diplomacy? Alexander Grushko About New World Order

We are witnessing the process of reshaping global landscape which was considered to be cast in stone even a decade ago. Apparent dominance of the only hegemon or “the lonely superpower” is fading. It is replaced by a polycentric world, with its inherent fragmentation and dynamic instability. This is an objective trend that can be tried to be denied, but it is impossible to stop or reverse it. At the same time, it depends on us whether the current period will become transitional on the way to a new, possibly more stable and fair world order. Or, chaos and the Hobbes “struggle of all against all” awaits us, writes Alexander Grushko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

To this day, Russia is a convinced supporter of multilateral approaches. We are obliged to this by our status of a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We are actively shaping the positive agenda in the world. We are cooperating with like minds in the frames of Collective Security Treaty Organization, Commonwealth of Independent States, The Eurasian Economic Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS.

It is obvious to us that one-sided installations based on the false sense of one’s own exclusiveness have no future. This is clearly demonstrated by the sad experience of military power experiments by the United States and its closest allies in the “dismantling of regimes” in Iraq and Libya, attempts to do this in Syria. Unfortunately, this experience did not teach the hawks in Washington. Now they are enthusiastically transferring the methodology of the "slash-and-fire" foreign policy to themselves, Latin America. A striking example is the US line against Venezuela, against which economic terrorism has been unleashed, sophisticated extraterritorial sanctions have been introduced. At the same time in Washington, without hesitating, they say that Cuba and Nicaragua are next in line.

With American "unilateralism" everything is more or less clear. Another thing is disturbing - when countries that proclaim multilateralism as the “alpha and omega” of their foreign policy, in fact, invest in it a deliberately distorted meaning. They understand it not as the imperativeness of a collective search for a balance of interests, but as a convenient opportunity to camouflage their selfish interests as “closed club” formats. And later, from a position of strength, they try to dictate their “rules of the game” to those participants of international relations who, through the mouthpiece of the media, are deliberately declared “strategic challenges” or “systemic rivals” and, therefore, whose interests are not countable.

Contrary to the objective interests of maintaining peace and stability on the European continent, NATO and its individual member countries, under the far-fetched pretext of “threatening from the East”, is intensifying militarization of the regions bordering Russia. The logistical and infrastructural capabilities of countries outside the alliance are rearranged to transfer our forces and assets to our borders. The destructive military activity of the alliance is accompanied by a line for scrapping the cornerstone agreements in the field of security - the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty, and the Founding NATO-Russia Act, the START Treaty are destroyed.

The OSCE potential, which we considered as a core role in building a “common European home,” still cannot reach its “design capacity” due to the unhealthy atmosphere established in the Euro-Atlantic region. One of the few remaining confidence-building instruments, the Vienna Document 2011, is not amenable to modernization in the context of NATO’s policy of “forceful containment” of Russia and the policy of sanctions. A “structured dialogue” on security threats going to the OSCE since 2017 can help de-escalate the situation. However, to do this, we must work together to reduce the danger of war and prevent incidents, and not to waste forces on fruitless mutual accusations or attempts to fix non-consensus and deliberately confrontational topics from the category of “hybrid” threats on its agenda.

Today, many of our Western partners are willing to appeal to "multilateral" approaches, but they do not disdain, under false pretexts, to introduce illegitimate unilateral restriction against our country, the real purpose of which is to create competitive economic advantages for themselves.

We are confronted with a biased attitude towards Eurasian integration, which in itself embodies the model of mutually beneficial multilateral economic cooperation. Establishment of official contacts with the governing bodies of the EAEU in EU Brussels is still linked to the implementation of political conditions unrelated to the activities of the Union. What is this, if not discriminatory attitude to the principle of multilateralism in practice?

Finally, it is quite difficult to take seriously the sincerity of those followers of multilateralism in international affairs who purposefully “remake” the activities of collective international structures for themselves and their destructive geopolitical plans. How can one fail to recall the decision of the Anglo-Saxons and their allies in the OPCW to endow the Organization’s Technical Secretariat with attributive functions of “punishing the guilty” in the use of chemical weapons? The peremptory information and propaganda campaign against Syria and Russia, launched in support of this decision, has become an example of what today is called “fake news”.

We also encounter situations similar to the one we see in the OPCW in relation to the Council of Europe, in which Russia was deliberately deprived of certain rights enshrined in the CoE Charter. In a sense, this analogy applies to the activities of the International Contact Group on Venezuela, which has slipped under pressure from the European Union on biased and non-constructive positions.

In short, increasingly, multilateral structures designed to serve as a platform for equal dialogue and the search for viable compromises are becoming a means of isolation and political pressure.

Does this mean that the age of multilateral diplomacy is nearing its end? Hopefully not. Modern international law and the UN system of multilateral diplomacy (as well as the European integration project) were born on the ruins left after the bloody World War II. Mankind has paid a huge price for ensuring that we have no alternative to the collective management of world affairs on the basis of equality and mutual consideration of interests.

In addition, the modern world is too complex and interdependent to rely on the “quilt” of national and “club” approaches. More than ever, the preservation in force of those international agreements developed as a result of many years of joint work by the world community, which have not yet fallen victim to someone’s short-term interests, is claimed. This includes, for example, the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan on the Iranian nuclear program or the International Arms Trade Treaty. Documents of this kind fit to be recorded in the "red book" of humanity.

However, first of all, “multilateralism” should be manifested in strict adherence to international law headed by the UN Charter. The observance of these elementary norms of interstate behavior should be motivated by common sense and a sense of responsibility for the fate of the world.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.