By Keith Preston December 29, 2022
While I agree that American/Atlanticist/unipolar/whatever hegemony is receding, I don’t think we will return to the bipolar world of the Cold War. Instead, we are moving toward a multipolar order like in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, where there were multiple great powers with their own spheres of influence. We are hurrying in that direction. And I don’t think it will stop there. It would be difficult for the BRICS alliance to hold together indefinitely, given the respective histories of those countries. Russia and China also have major demographic and stability problems, and the current situation isn’t helping. I suspect the major powers will continue to experience internal weakening, and their reach will be challenged by rising lesser powers.
After multipolarity comes not a renewed hegemon, only from the East, but “super multipolarity,” for lack of a better term. For instance, I would not be surprised if the Russian Federation eventually fragments like the USSR or if China collapses like the Qing dynasty. At the same time, Turkey, Iran, the KSA, Europe, India, Indonesia, various Southeast Asian countries, the Pacific Rim, different African countries, and multiple Latin American countries are all rising or experiencing growth. Revolutions happen when a country has a rising upper middle class that experiences the frustration of its political ambitions due to entrenched elites. Some of these countries will likely experience internal revolutions, and there will also be insurgencies by emerging countries against major powers.
Resistance to Russian and Chinese imperialism is already growing, even in Africa. I am skeptical of their ability to be successful imperialists over the long-term. For one thing, xenophobia does not make for good imperialism and both states tend to be concerned about cultural contamination of what they think is their higher civilization. I would be surprised if they achieved the level of global influence the West has exercised for 500 years
The BRICS challenge to Atlanticism is only the beginning. The rising powers in their own spheres of influence will challenge the BRICS. For instance, anti-Chinese parties are already developing in Africa. At the very least, rising middle classes will demand more political rights, and rising countries will demand greater participation in the various alliances and spheres of influence they are a part of. The role of non-state actors and fourth-generation warfare is also becoming more critical. I suspect the pattern will be fragmentation from unipolarity to multipolarity, then to super multipolarity, and then to nation-states having to increasingly share power with non-state actors and non-state entities.
One thing I suspect will accelerate this process is the globalization of America’s internal “culture war,” which is now being exported worldwide, with the same cultural fragmentation between modernists and traditionalists. The result will be the same kind of cultural self-sorting, enclavism, polarization, and creation of sanctuaries for issues and causes that we see in the USA, followed by bolder moves like creating startup societies, secessionist movements, new country projects, network states, and transnational federations.