A speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 10, 2007 at the Munich Conference on Security Policy gives us a glimpse into the global future and the role of the United States, Russia and other states according to Mr. Putin’s vision. If Washington really wants to understand the new global reality and its role in the world of today, all they have to do is look at a few key parts of this groundbreaking speech and the President’s responses during the following question and answer period.
Let’s start with Mr. Putin’s opening lines in which he shares his viewpoint on the changing global dynamic noting that all bolds throughout these quotes are mine:
“Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.
This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.
The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?
However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.
It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”
Considering the events of the War on Terror and President George Bush’s invocation of the term “Coalition of the Willing” when the United States could only garner the support of 46 nations (of which only 38 supplied an insignificant and short-term total of 25,000 troops) to back the American driven agenda to disarm Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein as shown on this list:
…the following comments from Russia’s President are even more meaningful:
“I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.
Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.
And with which results?
Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.
We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?…
…And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasise this – no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.”
Of course, as we all know, an arms race is exactly what the American defense industry wants!
As well, in light of the 2016 American presidential election, while Russia does not get an unconditional pass on its own democratic reform, Mr. Putin’s observations on the state of global democracy is also enlightening:
“Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.
Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.”
Mr. Putin goes on to note that, at the time of the speech, the combined purchasing power parity of China and India was greater than that of the United States and that the combined purchasing power parity of the BRIC nations was greater than that of the European Union, a situation that will ultimately be converted into political influence and a move toward a multipolar world. In fact, if we look at current purchasing power parity data from the World Bank, we find the following (2016 data):
United States – $18.624 trillion
China – $21.451 trillion
India – $8.718 trillion
Brazil – $3.147 trillion
Russia – $3.397 trillion
It is fascinating to note that, over a decade ago, a world leader had a grasp on the changing geopolitical reality of the world. While, at the time, the United States was still the only game in town when it came to controlling the global agenda, Mr. Putin’s observations that the unipolar world that existed after the collapse of the Soviet Union is a dying reality is rather prophetic. The accelerating rise of both China and Russia and, in particular, the growing power of the two nations in combination, over the past decade certainly threatens Washington’s post-Soviet and even post-Second World War global hegemony.
And, as the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Ottomans and British (among others) can tell you, all empires come to an end. Sometimes it’s with a whimper and other times it’s with a bang.
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