The World After the Crimea. Scenarios for the New World Order

April 1, 2014
Illustration: RusRep Online

Obviously, the world will never be the same after the events in the Crimea. By its unprecedented actions, in terms of international norms, Russia is forcing the West to make a decision – to accept it into the club of developed nations as an equal member, or push it away for once and for all, and then our country will have to try to survive by itself. RusRep tried to figure out what the new world configuration could be. Each of the scenarios proposed by us is based on something in today’s world, but what will play out at the end of the day might become clear in the coming days.

Why can all that is happening today in the Crimea be called unprecedented? Everything is simple: the cornerstone of post-war global politics has been the principle of the inviolability of borders. In a broad sense, it was violated during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the socialist bloc, but what was discussed at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences was first and foremost the principle of non-annexation of a part of any country by another country. It was conceived as an antidote to excessive strengthening of any of the great (and not so great) powers and as something that would guarantee a certain balance of forces.

The Yugoslavian wars and the secession of Kosovo were still to come after 1991, but even in that case, the region did not join Albania, no matter how much it was coveted by local nationalists. And most importantly, the guarantor of all that was the United States acting as the global policeman. And this is the second proof of the unprecedented nature of current events: over the past quarter of a century no one, except the United States, has dared to so blatantly disregard the international norms for the sake of national interests.

Why did Moscow go for this? Because it realized that, if nothing changes in the international system of relations, what awaits it is nothing but stagnation and slow decay. Any further policies would become irrelevant.

The West, in particular Europe, is expected to decide whether it accepts Russia or rejects it once and for all. But in this case, Moscow will hold out to the last – this could also make sense, and that is something that is well known in our history.

Russia has decided to change the world. Russia is taking a huge risk.

Scenario №1. A multi-polar world

Major players. EuroRussia from Lisbon to Vladivostok, the United States, China, (in the future, perhaps, the Bolivarian Republic – a Union of Latin American countries, an Islamic caliphate).

Developments. The United States continues to actively push for strict measures against Russia and demands that the new authorities in Kiev do not agree to any compromises. In line with the “fuck the EU” policy, stated by the U.S. Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland, Washington ignores what the Europeans think.

Meanwhile, secret negotiations continue between Moscow and the European Union, notably Berlin and Paris, during which the parties reach a compromise on the Crimea and separately on the south-east of Ukraine. The result is the largest ever conference on the future of Ukraine centered on federalization of the country.

In exchange, the authorities in Kiev receive financial assistance from Russia and the EU, i.e. the opportunity to sit on two chairs longed for by the Yanukovych government, that is both the European integration and retaining access to the Russian market.

Under such a scenario, some kind of a special status will most likely be invented for the Crimea, something that on the one hand, will respect the “historic choice” by Crimeans, and on the other will not violate, at least formally, the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Taking as an example the city of Gdansk, which between the world wars was called a “free city.” The Crimea formally remains part of Ukraine, but under the protection of Russia. At the same conference Moscow declares that it’s ready to reconsider its position on the Kosovo issue.

Against the background of the U.S. intransigence a rapprochement between Russia and Europe becomes inevitable. Eventually this results in an association of Russia and the EU, the format of which is impossible to predict at the moment.

Philosophy. From the Russian perspective, the heart of this scenario is the correction of a historical bend a century ago, which largely predetermined the global confrontation of the 20th century. Back then Russia placed a bet on an alliance with two maritime empires, Britain and France, hoping that they did not have their own interests in Eastern Europe and they would help in the fight against Germany. The result: two world wars and a defeat in a standoff with a new maritime empire, the United States.

What do we have now? France is no longer a maritime empire, Germany is a recognized leader, restrained, however, by the burden of the past. Half of potential European conflicts were avoided thanks to the postwar union between Paris and Berlin, the remaining ones could taper off with the accession of Moscow to that axis. For example, Ukraine will cease to be a frontier, endlessly hesitant in its choices.

The profound interest of continental Europe was described by Immanuel Wallerstein in the article “The Geopolitics of Ukraine’s Schism”. He noted that only an alliance with Russia does not leave it on the periphery of global processes in the face of a US-Chinese alliance that is taking shape.

Geopolitics. In the world of oligarchy only a major player can play any significant role. The emergence of EuroRusia sets in motion unification processes. In this case the Greater Europe is a classic continental empire, not much interested in what is happening outside an area limited by its immediate frontiers, which are huge, but not indefinite. For example, it could be concerned with developments in Africa or even in the Middle East only up to a point. At the same time, without Europe and Russia the U.S. and China will not have enough resources to control the rest of the world, and that means that traditional regional powers will be able to upgrade their status to that of the world powers. In the long run it means unification in one form or another of the Latin American countries, that is in fact the reemergence of the Bolivarian Republic. In the Middle East there a struggle for leadership between Turkey and Iran continues, which might result in one of these countries becoming a unifying force for the Islamic world and an independent player.

Political Economy. Here and now the Greater Europe is based on pure pragmatism. The annual trade turnover between Russia and the U.S. is about $35 billion. The volume of bilateral trade between the EU and Russia is over $400 billion. In the event of sanctions against Moscow Europeans definitely have something to lose. Trade sanctions are reciprocal and will hit Brussels like a boomerang. Instead, negotiations on a facilitated visa regime resume between the EU and Russia. After that a number of customs barriers are removed. For Europe Russia becomes not only a supplier of energy, but also of advanced internet technology, that the industrialized Germany doesn’t have.

At some point, the very architecture of the EU is revised. If Russia does not join the Union, it becomes the state most closely associated with it. Both Russia and Ukraine are parts of a united Europe without borders and visas, so nobody really cares about the official territorial association of the Crimea. The Crimea becomes a pan-European health resort and an IT-center.

To its internal (Balkans, the Baltics, as well as Ukraine) and external (Central Asia) peripheries the Greater Europe offers a “two in one” kind of development: improved institutions and enhanced mobility of an educated middle class in Europe, the development of infrastructure and new jobs in Russia.

Vulnerabilities. The restoration of a multipolar world brings us back to the situation that existed at the turn of the 20th century with one notable difference: now there are nuclear weapons effectively prohibiting a new world war. Therefore, a war between unions of countries will be carried out by economic and political means. So, the problem of the “new Europe” is that even the older one is not uniform. For example, since the breakup of the Soviet Union the Eastern European elites have been turning to Washington more than Berlin. This is the spot the U.S. will try to hit, to sow the seeds of strife and discord in a loose European empire. Besides, the Russian integration into a common house will be seriously complicated by its huge dimensions. Berlin will strongly suggest that it would be best to take the path of real federalization, and Moscow will refuse for fear of collapse. A considerable part of the non‑European world will be in decline, which will result in a radicalization of public sentiment. There are no more procedures for resolving disputes in a civilised manner after the Crimean incident.

Scenario №2. A bipolar world 2.0

Major players. The United States and China

Developments. No agreements with regards to Ukraine are reached. The EU fully supports the U.S. position, insisting that Russia abstains from any influence over Ukraine. In response, Russia, within days or weeks, accepts the Crimea as part of its integral territory and invades the eastern regions of Ukraine. The West responds with prompt and tough sanctions that will affect not only individual Russian officials, but also businesses, and possibly ordinary citizens, whose entry into certain countries will be dramatically restricted. Gradually, economic sanctions are imposed (this cannot be done overnight, as Europe is too dependent on our energy resources and markets).

In response, China expresses its support for Russia’s position in one way or another. All the contracts in the Crimea, signed by the Yanukovych government with its Chinese partners before its downfall, are strictly enforced. Chinese investment finances the construction of a giant port on Lake Donuzlav and a power plant in the village of Scholkino.

In response to the Western economic sanctions China provides economic support to Russia. A Russian-Chinese alliance emerges that allows Russia to pivot towards China, somehow softening the impact of the deterioration of the economic situation.

Philosophy. Undoubtedly, the ideological basis of a Russian-Chinese alliance is neo-socialism and countering the Western world and oligarchic capitalism. Hence, almost certainly a reevaluation of the Soviet past in Russia, to make it a source of development, as well as a revival of interest in Eurasianism, where our country will be designated as “true Europe”, a keeper of the best, i.e. the traditional Christianity, of its heritage. In their turn, the next, sixth generation of Chinese leaders openly speaks of a return to the “revolutionary practice.” However, it doesn’t go as far as exonerate Mao. It’s more like invoking the creator of the Chinese Army Zhu De, and Marshal Peng Dehuai.

The concept of democracy will be subject to revision: its value per se will not be rhetorically revised, but the key public institutions of Western origin will certainly be gradually displaced. Apparently, Vladimir Putin is a big fan of the East German political experience, as clearly exemplified by the creation of a “Popular Front”, similar to what existed in the GDR. So expect the implanting of other practices of “people’s democracy” in our country. There will be little sight of the liberal opposition.

Geopolitics. The world will essentially return to the situation that existed before 1991, only the major players will somewhat change. The United States will remain the leader of the Western bloc, with Europe as its younger sister, but the Eastern, and again socialist, bloc will be headed by China. Russia will play a role of a junior, but aggressive partner, who would be at the forefront of all sorts of modern wars, while cautious Beijing would get considerable benefits from this.

The rest of the world will have to make a choice, and under the current situation the choice of many might not be pro-Western. The Latin American powers of the Bolivarian ALBA, created by the late Hugo Chavez, will readily join the new Eastern bloc, which will increasingly enjoy very active support from Western left-wing intellectuals. In the Middle East more turmoil will be caused by sloppy U.S. attempts to break free from the influence of the Saudis and to establish contacts with Iran. Most likely China will be able to play off the emerging contradictions. As for Africa, Beijing established itself there long ago. But overall, the world will return to the situation of their own “sons of bitches”, when each of the players in the global confrontation support peripheral leaders, regardless of their domestic policies, in exchange for military and economic loyalty.

Political Economy. Russia acts as a supplier of resources, technologies, as well as academic and engineering manpower, while China provides industrial capacity and labor. Essentially, an alternative capitalism emerges, one with an apparent penchant for state control and rather closely intertwined with the first, Western kind, since China will not be affected by sanctions against Russia. Well, in our country, MacBooks, iPhones and Fords will be replaced by Lenovo computers, Huawei phones, and Great Wall cars.

Overall for the world’s periphery, this global confrontation is even beneficial. In an effort to expand their areas of control, the opposing blocs will try to invest as much as possible in the satellite countries. The world will enter a phase of infrastructural growth.

Vulnerabilities. The arms race, and the “Iron Curtain”. Russia may be unable to build a truly mobilized economy. In any case, the gap between the Russian economy and that of the West will lead to lower standard of living, at least at an early stage. As the Russian economy becomes more militarized, China’s role as a senior partner will keep growing.

As to China, it may well afford a clever double game: not only does it not curtail economic cooperation with the United States, (which would be simply impossible, given its volume), but it is constantly engaged in behind-the-scene political consultations with Washington. With the weakening of Russia it can threaten the Far East.

Scenario №3. A unipolar world: Pax Americana

Key player: United States

Developments. Under U.S. pressure, the European Union and China join the American ultimatum for Russia to give up on the Crimea. The Kremlin puts on a brave face, but accepts the terms of surrender in exchange for some carrots, such as the continuation of negotiations on visas to Europe, U.S. support for Russia’s position on Syria and so on.

In this case a Russian riot in the Crimea will be regarded as the normal growing pains of a teenager, who, of course, will be scolded by wise American parents, perhaps even punished, but gently, with a politically correct smile on their faces. And yes, they will also make sure that he never grows up.

The Crimea is returned to Ukraine, which shortly afterwards joins NATO. NATO missiles will be stationed not far from the Belgorod customs point. However, as State Department officials, who by that time could be joined by the Russian Foreign Ministry, will emphasize, these missiles do not threaten Russia in any way. So, please get rid of those fears of the Cold War!

In fact, this scenario assumes only one thing – that nothing in this world has changed.

Philosophy. It was best described in the unfinished novel by Strugatsky brothers, which was intended to crown a series of books about a utopian “Noon Universe”:

He begins to speak, to explain, to drive the message home: about the grand theory of education, about the Teachers, about the meticulous hard work on every child’s soul… The Aborigine listens smiling, nodding, and then notes as if casually: “Graceful. Very beautiful theory. But, unfortunately, absolutely impossible to implement in practice.”

And while Maxim looks at him, speechless, the aborigine utters the phrase for which the Strugatsky brothers, to the last moment still wanted to write this novel:

“Peace cannot be built the way you just told me”, – says the Aborigine. “Such peace can only be made up. I’m afraid, my friend, you live in a world that someone has made up before you and without you, and you just don’t realize that” (Boris Strugatsky, Comments to the traversed, 1960-1962).

Geopolitics. The American world is a world of monarchy, in which the United States has, in effect, a monopoly on strategic decisions. The only serious counter-party is China, but not having its own allies, it is doomed to play the role of junior partner. The roles of the rest of the countries are purely functional: they exist only as part of the global economy and the market for consumer goods. Theoretically, due to its simplicity, this world is extremely stable.

Political Economy. Since nothing changes, the world remains the same. The United States strengthen not only their role as the world’s policeman, but also as the economic leader, dictate their rules of the game to the rest of the world, increasingly bringing the Third World countries into its orbit, albeit in a rather specific manner. The economies of the countries that are not part of the “Golden Billion”, are simplified to the maximum, they exist exclusively to serve the needs of the world’s elite. In this process an advanced middle class is offered a number of opportunities to integrate into the Western world.

What also makes this scenario interesting is that in it, perhaps, like in no other, an important role is to be played by the so-called non-state actors: transnational corporations, all kinds of network structures, religious associations. But at the same time an equally important role is played by terrorist protest groups not affiliated with a specific state.

Vulnerabilities. In fact, the terrorist groups are the first danger that a unipolar world has already had to face over the quarter century of its existence. There is no reason to believe that this danger will diminish in the future. Emotions over the events in Ukraine and the Crimea will settle down, and everyone will realize the existence of the Middle Eastern frontier that the United States have not yet taken care of.

Besides, the past year of 2013 revealed yet another threat, rooted in the western world – that is of total boredom and loss of meanings, leading to the phenomenon of so-called private terror. “The main enemy of a private owner,” as RusRep once wrote about this phenomenon, “is any structure of power and control: a state, a society, a corporation, a business, a supermarket, etc. The main grievance of a private terrorist is his disappearance as a personality: the state, the society and everybody else are trying to reduce his humanity.”

Finally, the last and perhaps the most significant problem – is the logic of capitalist development itself. Becoming global and thus self-contained, it begins to devour itself. An incumbent monopoly corporation, spending too much to maintain itself and too cumbersome to cut costs. Capitalism needs competition, but it contradicts the idea of ​​global domination – an insoluble paradox.

Scenario №4. A world of ‘besieged fortresses’

Developments. Russia annexes Crimea, and is then faced not only with tough sanctions by Western countries, but also with the fact that China, whose trade is actually to a great extent focused on Western countries (the EU’s share in Chinese exports amounts to 17.9%, of the U.S. share is 17.2%, and Russia’s – only 1.9%), will just lift its hands in dismay. The country will end up isolated internationally. The system of sanctions will unfold gradually, but steadily, starting with freezing of accounts of individual officials and businessmen, and culminating in a few years with refusals to import Russian energy.

Ukraine takes the hardest line at the negotiations on supplying water and electricity to the Crimea, resulting in severe energy shortages on the peninsula. In eastern Ukraine, several large pro-Russian rallies are staged, which Moscow supports based on the Crimean scenario. The situation escalates into an armed conflict, as the result of which the Ukrainian army, backed by NATO forces, manages to push back the Russian troops. The Crimea remains under the control of Russia, but becomes an extremely heavy burden for our economy.

In order to deprive Moscow of the last remnants of its former influence, even the basic international institutions may be subject to revision.

Philosophy. The Russian worldview in such a scenario has already been summed up in Pushkin’s poem, To the slanderers of Russia.

Geopolitics. This is a world with a very clearly articulated core, according to the terminology by Wallerstein. The one in which an intermediate layer almost disappears and what is left is a deeply backward periphery, where there is “the outer darkness and gnashing of teeth.” The ideology of rogue states is built on the concept of a “besieged fortress”, although in fact it is the West that builds the ramparts to separate itself from the rest of the world. What results is a geopolitical cyber-punk story, only not in the distant future, but in a couple of decades. The hero of the new world is Ariel Sharon, who suggested that Palestinians solve their problems themselves, and that Israel should separate itself from them with a wall, not a symbolic one, but quite real.

At the same time entry into the first world will finally become completely impossible, and the Western institutional patterns will fade, a huge amount of creative political energy will be freed up beyond it. Any large country that can offer an effective option for development, or at least for stable survival behind the “wall”, will be able to claim a leading role. However, its ambitions will be strictly limited by the watchful eye and the heavy hand of the world’s leaders, who consider rise of any external forces a threat.

Political economy. In this scenario, the rest of the world will serve as a platform for plundering by its “civilized” part. Bombings, military operations, “humanitarian” wars, etc. will become daily routine.

Vulnerabilities. The world of “geopolitical cyberpunk” is designed in such a way, that you do not even have an anti-utopia. Obviously, to save at least some statehood under these conditions of isolation and constant struggle for a place under the sun, tough authoritarian regimes will be established in most ‘besieged fortresses’. However, this world will not last forever. The biggest intrigue is the place of China, which will be sort of “in between”: too large and aloof to join the core, but too developed to stay outside. If the predictions of an imminent major crisis in the Chinese economy do not come true, it could well become the leader of the periphery, in which case we go back to the scenario №3. Here’s another potential threat: seeking a better life, the world behind the “wall” will ruthlessly exploit its own resources. If this leads to an environmental disaster, it will affect everyone. Unless, of course, by that time they have built paradise space stations, like in Hollywood blockbusters.

Scenario №5. A world without leaders

Major players: Anyone

Developments. The Crimea becomes part of Russia. Despite the loud rhetoric, Western countries do not take any real steps. Even the sanctions against Russia are more of an image. The United States, for example, expand the ‘Magnitsky list’, the Parliamentary Assembly of the EU adopts a resolution condemning Russia, etc. Ukraine, having not received any real support of the EU and the U.S. is forced to negotiate with Russia on its own. As a result, after a nationalist leader wins the presidential elections, the government in Kiev accepts the loss of the Crimea in exchange for loans and Russia’s refusal to support any ideas of federalization of the country in general and the south-east of Ukraine in particular.

Philosophy. A multipolar world is sort of a dream about pluralistic democracy, transferred to the realm of international relations. It can, however, be argued that it is the other way round, because it is rooted in the days when the idea of ​​a modern parliament was in its infancy. The year is 1648, England is in the midst of the world’s first parliamentary revolution, and the European countries sign the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, ending a devastating Thirty Years’ War and laying the foundations of the modern world order. It was this that gave rise to the concept of balance of power, checks and balances, coalitions, preventing the hegemony of one of the powers. There is nothing wrong about this concept, however from the beginning it started to generate a whole series of conflicts “just in case”, so that no one stuck out, but at the same time there was an attempt to streamline the structure by establishing hegemony. Today, the world may revert to its state of three hundred years ago, with a little difference: now it has weapons of mass destruction.

Geopolitics. The multipolar world is a world without authority, a world where the right of the strong is trumped by the right of the bold. The Crimean precedent will give rise to a series of similar events, which, in fact, will cease to be real events. China will try to quietly and peacefully resolve the Taiwan problem, hinting to those on the island who do not agree with the concept of “one country – two systems”, with its medium-range missiles. The idea of the reunification of Moldova and Romania will be reignited, which Russia might not like. Interesting events could happen in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In real politics of the previous era the idea of the inviolability and legitimacy of borders served as a deceptive norm. In the new era it will be replaced by “the people’s right to self‑determination”, and possibly the “historic right.” But we should not forget that this norm is truly deceptive: only those who have real military and economic resources will have the right to implement it. Vyborg will not be returned to Finland. At least, not yet.

Political economy. The multipolar world will have two sides. The first one – a higher propensity for conflict and a dramatic increase in the number of frontiers, and consequently, economic instability. In fact, such a world is needed primarily by nation-states of the industrial age, that try to prove to their residents that they their time is not over yet, and that the nations still need them at least to mobilize forces. The proliferation of new dictatorships and a crisis of representative democracy, the onset of which we witness today, will become almost inevitable. But there is the other side to it: such a world offers great opportunities for political creativity, and whoever is able to offer an extraordinary model of political economy gets a decisive advantage. It is a world of giant fears and equally giant opportunities.

Vulnerabilities. This world is one huge vulnerability. Here, anything can happen at any time, including a destructive nuclear war.

From Versailles to Potsdam. How the world order was arranged at different times:

The Westphalian system

When: 1648-1701, or until 1815, or at the moment

Key players: France, Austria, Sweden, the Ottoman Empire, and later Russia, and Prussia

Basic Rules: In medieval Europe, international relations were a rather complex picture, because there were neither nations, nor states in the sense we are familiar with. Everything was regulated by a complex system of personal treaties, dynastic ties and the Christian law, according to which the Pope was the supreme sovereign. Reformation, as a result of which a number of European rulers adopted Protestantism and refused to recognize the supreme jurisdiction of Rome, as well as the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) closed the books on the medieval era. The Peace of Westphalia marked the onset of a new world order.

In its essence the Thirty Years’ War was a religious one, and the first principle, which was finally settled by a peace treaty, was “cuius regio, eius religio” (“whose realm, his religion”). In a broad sense, this meant that the ruler has complete independence in internal affairs. Translated into modern language it is the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.

Another important Westphalian postulate boils down to the idea that international relations are relations between states. Thus, the church, or, for example, the Jesuit order, were not considered equal political entities. Since this principle is formally valid to this day, multinational corporations or NGOs are not represented in international institutions.

Finally, the Treaty of Westphalia prescribed to treat all states as equal, but in reality it was not observed even in the first decades after the signing. In fact, scientists still argue about what constituted the Westphalian system. “Nihilists” believe that it died before it was really born, because just fifty years later, Europe was drawn into a new civil war – the War of the Spanish Succession, during which all the agreed principles were blatantly disregarded. Their opponents, however, contend that these principles are used even today as the superior law.

The Vienna system

When: 1815-1918

Key players: Russia, Great Britain, Austria, France, at a later stage Germany and the United States

Basic rules. The necessity to formalize a new system of international relations emerged after the Napoleonic Wars, during which the French emperor made ​​the first attempt to build a unipolar world and substantially redrew the borders within Europe. The Congress of Vienna, called after the victory over Napoleon, was to restore the old order, but in practice seriously modernized international relations.

First of all, the Westphalian idea of ​​equality of states was replaced by the principle, whereby some were “more equal”. The “great powers” included those who defeated Napoleon and France itself, thanks to Talleyrand’s efforts. The formal difference was that the countries “with a wide sphere of interests” had the right to exchange full-fledged ambassadors, and the rest – only chargé d’affaires. In reality it was the “great powers” who were made responsible for maintaining the balance of forces and preserving order in Europe. Congresses, such as Vienna, called at relatively regular intervals, became an institutional mechanism to reconcile interests.

The world order in itself was based on the principle of legitimacy, that is, preservation of the acting authority. Problems, that ultimately led to the collapse of the Concert of Europe, resulted from contradictions that emerged between the victorious countries. In addition, new powers stormed into European and world politics, above all the united German Empire, that demanded recognition of their status. Global competition has proved to be incompatible with the principle of balance of powers.

The Versailles-Washington system

When: 1918-1945

Key players: France, USA, Great Britain, Japan

Basic rules: A new system of international relations became necessary after the First World War and the defeat of Germany and its allies. Relevant treaties were signed at Versailles and Washington. The key institutional innovation was the creation of a permanent League of Nations, which was designed to prevent a new global conflict. The League of Nations, just like the entire system of relations in general, was clearly dominated by the victorious powers. The permanent council of the League included France, Great Britain, Japan and Italy.

With regards to the losers there was no leniency: Germany was forced to pay extremely burdensome reparations, its colonies, as well as those of the Ottoman Empire, either fell into the hands of the victors, or became mandated territories of the League of Nations. Soviet Russia was essentially excluded from the system of international relations.

Today they tend to explain the collapse of the system and the outbreak of the Second World War by the harsh treatment of the “rogue states”, that was not sufficiently backed financially and politically. If you punish Germany or marginalize the Bolshevik Russia, do not give them an opportunity to recover, destroy them as political entities! When, in the mid-30s they became strong, international relations started to burst at the seams.

By the way, some of the consequences of poor diplomatic management of those time are felt to this day. For example, in the period between the wars, Palestine, a former territory of the Ottoman Empire, came under British mandate, and it was then that the Arab-Jewish problem became particularly acute.

The Yalta-Potsdam system

When: 1945-1991, or presently

Key players: USSR and USA

Basic rules: At the end of the Second World War a new configuration of international relations was created, which inherited from the previous system a permanent body of reconciliation of interests: the League of Nations was replaced by the UN. As before, all countries were formally equal, but some were “more equal than others”. In this case, the permanent members of the UN Security Council: the Soviet Union (later Russia), the United States, Britain, France, and China. Formally, they were united by the victory over Nazi Germany and its allies, and for a long time remained the only nuclear powers.

The presence of weapons of mass destruction largely distinguishes this system from the one that was established after the World War I. Due to nuclear deterrence and the possibility of mutual destruction it was possible to keep the world from unleashing the Third World War, even during the periods of the most acute confrontation between major players, the USSR and the USA.

Moreover, in regard to the countries that were defeated at the World War II, the two opposing systems took a stance that emphasized not oppression, but rather accelerated support. This was necessary as part of inter-bloc confrontation, and in order to avoid a new upsurge revenge-seeking sentiments.

The period after the collapse of the Soviet Union was marked by the emergence of the concept of so-called humanitarian intervention. In essence it means that the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries is replaced by the idea that if the basic rights of large numbers of people are deemed at risk of being violated, a country can be invaded by an external force. In practice such a force was most often the United States. According to some scholars, it is a revision not only of the Yalta-Potsdam principles, but also of the basic Westphalian principle of sovereignty.