Putin’s Russia and Interpretation of a Multi-polar World Collide with the Democratization of the International Community
Russia under Vladimir Putin and the US face a great number of conflicts of interests, especially when it comes to key issues like Crimea and Syria. Meetings between US President Donald Trump and Putin, such as the one at the Hamburg G20 Summit, put these conflicts of interests in the spotlight, yet the strife between these two Cold War rivals is only a symptom of a far broader clash of worldviews. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the emerging International Community was forced into a bipolar world order, which transformed into a monopolar world order when the USSR left the US as the world’s only hegemonic power. It is now transforming into a multi-polar world, which the Putin government seems to interpret differently than the West.
Democracies face an inherent conflict of interests when it comes to their policies toward non-democratic and ill-democratic governments. They must either choose to respect the boundaries and sovereignty of foreign governments or conflict with these governments over their dominance of their territories and populations. In practice, the former too often means hypocritical betrayals of their own democratic values while the latter means exerting undue influence in the affairs of other nations, which is something all forms of government are compelled to do in order to ensure their interests. At best, democratic governments will support policies that favor foreign governments when the interests of the populations of both nations align.
Clearly, relations between democratic nations face fewer ethical concerns. When the interests of two Peoples and two democratic governments misalign, however, democracies still face foreign policy strife, yet neither democratic nation has to sacrifice their values, unless corrupt leaders chose to do so. Nations have a chance to simply disagree and find compromise solutions over the course of time, which is how democracies are supposed to handle internal disagreement as well. Because democracies and nondemocratic governments are more often likely to have disagreements over fundamental issues of governance, conflicts are far more likely to occur and escalate far quicker to the point armed conflict becomes the most likely outcome.
The Ukraine Crisis, which escalated after ill-democratic Russia’s armed seizure of Crimea, revived Cold War-era tensions between the West and Russia. The driving force behind the Ukraine Crisis, as well as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, is Russia’s fierce opposition to any Western influence in its sphere of influence and its subsequent offensive interference in the affairs of other nations, which the likes of Russia complain about the US doing. While Russia is willing to accept the US as a hegemonic power with a vast sphere of influence, it seeks a multi-polar world order where it also enjoys a sizable sphere of influence. The Putin government can accept China developing a sphere of influence capable of balancing US influence, yet it cannot accept a multi-polar world where US power is restrained by America’s partners in Europe and Asia.
In the case of Syria, Russia wants to support the Assad regime, because it is a reliable partner in the Middle East. More important to the Putin government is the balance of power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia leads the US-allied pole of the Middle East; whereas, Iran leads the Russian-allied pole of the region. The loss of Syria would be a major blow to Iranian influence. This is why Putin is willing to risk a repeat of the Soviet failure during the Afghanistan War by utilizing Russian military police to ensure stability in a divided Syria where Assad is left to rule over the territory the regime controls. Syria cannot be stabilized, however, until the social issues fueling civil unrest and terrorism are resolved, which includes the removal of Assad whose presence drives the conflict.
The problem with the multi-polar worldview of Putin and his cronies is that it ignores fundamental cultural shifts. The world is democratizing, which means people want governments that favor and serve them. Just a Churchill and Stalin once attempted to broker a deal on how the world and spoils of war should be divided before the Second World War even ended, the Putin government seeks something similar to ensure the influence of Russia. Like the Percentage Deal, such attempts that defy the will of the world’s Peoples, especially those who are willing to go to war, will only result in future conflicts. The new world order cannot be determined by a handful of powerful leaders. It must be determined by the Peoples of the world through the governments of the world’s most powerful nations.
Despite views that the Euromaidan Protests in Ukraine and the Arab Spring Revolutions where just an invention of the West, their root cause was, and continues to be, a desire among the Peoples of these lands to share the same influence over government as Westerners. A muli-polar world under Western thinking means the influential nations shape the course of the world. Today, the most influential nation include the US, China and Russia, but they also include Germany, Britain, France, Japan, India, Pakistan, and Brazil. For the most part, these nations are democratic in nature, which means their Peoples expect their governments to fulfill their interests and follow their collective wills.
Furthermore, European powers may exist in America’s sphere of influence, but the US nor the European Union control the European allies. The US does not control its allies in the Middle East, Asia, or elsewhere. Russia, as well as China, cannot expect to enjoy such influence either. A multi-polar world means less power for powerful nations, not more. It means more power for the Peoples of the world, which fulfills the interests of democratic governments. The Peoples and governments of the world will, at times, align with poles like the US, European Union, Russia and China, yet they truly seek a multi-polar world where they express and address their own interests independent of what more powerful governments and international governing institutions want.
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