Tuesday 16th of July 2024

a "danger" we should embrace: multipolarity....

In the transition to a multipolar world, a number of questions arise on the level of theory, among which one of the main ones arises: does the triumph of multipolarism put an end to classical geopolitics, or not?

The father of the theory of the multipolar world, the Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, did not correctly and completely formulate an answer to this question in the first phase of theoretical composition, as it was premature at the time to reason about the theory’s success scenarios. Today, however, an answer is urgently needed.


Does the triumph of multipolarism spell the end of classical geopolitics?

BY Lorenzo Maria PACINI


Let us start with the fundamentals. Classical geopolitics, codified between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, sees in the words of Admiral Halford Mackinder one of its defining axioms, which has unquestionably dictated the law to this day: “Eurasia is the Heartland. He who controls the Heartland, controls the world”. Around this geographical axis of history, all geopolitics known to us has been inscribed. Today, the concept that holds all the scientific consequences in the context of the transformation from classical geopolitics to the geopolitics of the multi-polar world is the distributed Heartland, or distributed, if you prefer. Only with this can we look at the semantic structure of classical geopolitics with the essential dualism between the Sea Civilisation (also in the sense of Plato’s Proclus where he describes the ancient civilisation of Atlantis, defined as ’the worst’ in History) and the Earth Civilisation, which is preserved, remains present, and all the implications and elaborations that come from Carl Schmitt’s studies of the two civilisations. Classical geopolitics operates with two projections of these principles in geography and world history, identifying how they will be incorporated and manifested in the world’s great powers.

We retain, therefore, this interpretation of the two types of civilisations. The dualism already advocated by the Greek philosopher Proclus is fully confirmed by Mackinder, who emphasises this dualism as being made up of permanent principles, two factors in the development of the civilisations of mankind and which can be identified throughout human history: attraction to time, to materiality, to the fleeting; attraction to verticality, to spirit, to stable values. It is interesting that sea water cannot be drunk, as it is toxic to human beings, and therefore sea water is in a sense death, while fresh, terrestrial water is water of life. This ’exclusive’ duality between two historical-geographical points of attraction lies at the heart of classical geopolitics. The conflicts we experience are perfectly inscribed in the dualistic reading above. Classical geopolitics also finds its validity in the current context, if we think of well-known conflicts such as the Russian-Ukrainian one, which we know is a clash of civilisations between the West and Russia, or the Israeli-Palestinian one. One cannot say that classical geopolitics is outdated because its laws still work in full force today and therefore one can still use it as an interpretative methodology. However, one question remains: can one go further?

One can observe with calm objectivity that the classical Heartland, Eurasia, no longer suffices as a counterbalancing pole against the Sea Civilisation. Let us therefore consider two forms of post-classical geopolitics, the geopolitics of today: unipolar geopolitics, which affirms the absence of dualism and the triumph of the thalassocratic civilisation as described by Francis Fukuyama, Yuval Noah Harari, Clauss Schwab, the American democrats who are the partisans of this unipolar or, in some cases, a-polar world, which envisages the absolute cancellation of the Civilisation of the Earth even as a concept. This first form of post-classical geopolitics we can christen it as post-polarism, perfectly in line with post-modernity, and this is contemporary “dogmatic” geopolitics (in the thalassocratic sense, clearly), it was born from thinkers steeped in classical thalassocratic geopolitics and does not admit dissent.

Reading current events with this lens, it is clear how Russia today is fighting the ’war of the past’ to open up the world the future: it is the last geopolitical war of the past, the last fought according to Mackinderian axioms; what comes next will be “other”, different, ambitiously multipolar. Note well: Russia today, after the catastrophe of the 1990s, no longer has the resources to establish itself alone as a world power in competition with the West’s unipolar civilisation. Eurasia is no longer enough on its own: it lacks demographic and economic stability and this forces Russians fighting for traditional classical geopolitics to fight with new norms, to chart different routes and explore unknown territories. Russia needs allies and partners to complete this epochal mission. From a more metaphysical perspective, the Russians are the bearers of the last tellurocratic sacred will, fighting for eternity over temporality.

Imagining Russia’s victory in this last war of classical geopolitics, the extension of the Russian idea over the whole world is not congenial, because Russia does not have a universal ideology — which the Americans do, such as the ideology of human rights, genderism, etc. — that can attract the elites of the world. — that can appeal to the world’s elites and peoples. Russia is too small in this sense. It can save itself as ’little Eurasia’, limited to Russia itself, but this will not be decisive because it is a defensive fight, not an offensive one, and in the long run it does not pay off. Hence, multipolarity arises: if we cannot accept thalassocratic domination and cannot propose Eurasia as a universal idea, then we must move to multipolarity. Greater China, rising India, and Africa emancipated from the European West are examples of independence, and we must absolutely exclude any plan of Russian interference, even if only conceptually. Russia has an imperial vision 8in an entirely different sense from the past), but not a global one. Not even in theory is it permitted to imagine the other poles as subservient to Russian power.

This is where the geopolitics of the multipolar world is actually born, where an alternative is born. The West remains a (macro)pole with its maritime validity, with globalism as an ideology; all anti-globalism is a continuation and transfiguration of the Civilisation of the Earth: the Heartland is distributed over several poles, it is transformed and readapted, with a multiplicity of facets. This operational pluralisation represents a decisive transformation that is already underway.

In the 2016 U.S. elections, one clearly saw this ’dismemberment’, at least apparent, of the macro-pole called the West: the coasts (East Coast and West Coast) voted for the Democrats, the territorially central states voted for the Republicans. This ’domestic geopolitics’ has changed the fortunes of the star-spangled hegemon in no small measure. There is a kind of inner Heartland in America that is taking shape, so the U.S. can no longer be regarded as a single Sea Civilisation. This is an absolutely decisive point. There is a kind of inner Heartland Civilisation within the Sea Civilisation. We must begin to write a history of the American Heartland. It is interesting that in Mackinder’s landmark article on the Geographical Axis of History, he spoke of the USA as a tellurocratic civilisation in much the same way as Russia, which indicates that there was a radical change, temporally occurring after the proclamation of the 14 Principles by then-President Woodrow Wilson. It was those points that redefined America’s position towards thalassocracy.

We can also imagine that Russia is not totally terrestrial: there is a thalassocratic elite within Russia, such as the rulers of the 1990s, Western-style liberal entrepreneurs, many people who emigrated when the USSR collapsed and then returned as lords of liberal-capitalism. This is why Civilisation of the Sea and Civilisation of the Land become identifiable principles in all civilisations.

Today we can speak, to give a few more examples, of China’s Heartland, presented with Xi Jinping, who is profoundly tellurocratic, but who has a huge commercial maritime power, hence a maritime extension, even though China is not historically a sea power. Similarly with Nerendra Modi, who wants to propose an independent and ’decolonised in consciousness’ India, and this is a Heartland, but at the same time India has a strong maritime attraction that makes it tend towards globalism, with alliances with the U.S., UK, Japan as already narrated in the 20th century. The Islamic world is also made up of more terrestrial countries, such as Iran, and other countries that are exquisitely integrated into international globalism, such as the ’oil princes’ of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. In Africa too, many forces promote a Pan-Africanism that is the affirmation of an African Heartland, an authentic civilisation of the earth, while other rulers want to be part of the Western project that fascinates and woos them. In Ibero-America, the same thing is happening: countries are pushing towards an Earth integration, while other leaders are dispassionately Atlanticist. Theoretically, this is also happening in Europe, which today is totally under Atlanticist control: look at the right-wing populism that has boasted — and continues to do so — a multipolar opening, but starting from erroneous premises, so much so that it has gained a fair amount of political power only to betray popular representation on time, confirming that in a territory militarily, politically, economically and culturally occupied by a foreign power (the USA), the preservation of power is not possible without the intervention of the Sea. Europe cannot and should not be subservient to other poles or civilisations, but in fact it is to the Atlanticist one; there is a theoretical Europe, which exists virtually and has a great History, which today is in a ’hidden’ phase and has nothing to do with Russia. Russia, however, is today fighting for multipolarity, which represents a chance for Europe to be reborn. The only possible Europe is an independent Europe, free of external power of any kind, autonomous and geopolitically for itself. Finally, the American Heartland sees in the electoral struggle, today represented by the challenge between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, a paraphrase of the internal geopolitical clash between Land and Sea. This is the end of the classical geopolitical struggle.

We hear the call for a revolutionary geopolitics, not only academic, but also made up of a militancy that is a struggle with the dictatorship of unipolarism and post-polarism.

The geopolitics of the multipolar world, on the other hand, is dangerous, because it makes us consider what we live today in a new light. And it offers us a way to realise it.



SEE ALSO: https://yourdemocracy.net/drupal/node/43171


the other bloc....


SCO summit in Astana: the ‘Shanghai spirit’ – 2024 edition

    BY Ksenia Muratshina


On July 3–4 the 24th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was held in Astana. The heads of ten Eurasian states (Russia, Belarus, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) gathered to discuss the most pressing issues of international cooperation. What agreements have been reached, what is the SCO today, what is its role in regional security and why are more and more countries seeking to obtain membership? 

Aiming for a global role

During the summit, participating countries expressed their readiness to follow the founding principles of SCO and shared the sentiment that SCO should play an increasingly significant role in international relations and international security. The parties announced the adoption of the SCO ‘Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace, Harmony and Development’ and invited all states of the world to join it. This is the first initiative of such a global scale launched by SCO in all its history. Its full text is yet to be published, but in the meantime, the former Secretary General of the organisation, Rashid Alimov was the first to comment on it to the media. Alimov is a very significant figure in terms of negotiations, expert dialogue and collective decision-making within the SCO. It was noted that the document provides a deep and objective analysis of the current state of affairs in world politics and the economy and contains proposals from SCO countries to establish “an honest, direct and transparent global dialogue to lay the foundations for equal cooperation among UN member states”. The SCO is proposing “to start the collective search for a formula for a just world” and to begin forming a ‘fair economic environment’ in the global economy. The countries called for increasing efforts in the fight against hunger and poverty and the ‘formation of a universal movement for a clean and safe planet Earth’, as well as the “dialogue of all states and international institutions to ensure financing of joint projects and programmes in the field of environmental protection”. As participants emphasised, in order to solve global problems, the world needs to ‘build international relations anew in the spirit of mutual respect, justice, equality and mutually beneficial cooperation’.

In essence, the Initiative is an invitation from the SCO to the whole world to start a new, equal and comprehensive dialogue based on the principles of multipolarity and the willingness to cooperate.

In his speech at the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the SCO one of the ‘main pillars of the emerging new world order’ and voiced his proposal to ‘create a new architecture of cooperation, indivisible security and development in Eurasia’.

The final Declaration of the summit reflects the coordinated approval by the member countries of the development of a large-scale inter-organisational dialogue between the SCO and the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia and other international associations.

Cooperation is intensifying

At the Astana summit, SCO members reiterated their opposition to unilateral sanctions, states and organisations ensuring their individual security at the expense of others, called for UN reform with increased representation of developing countries and pledged to develop multidisciplinary cooperation among themselves, including expanding counteraction to terrorism, separatism and extremism. An Action Programme for 2025–2027 has been signed in this regard. The signatories intend to ensure peace and development in Afghanistan, intensify the joint fight against drug trafficking and establish cooperation in this field with the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, which is involved in this field. The SCO’s Anti-Drug Strategy for 2024–2029 was also adopted.

In terms of economy, the states took it upon themselves to further defend the idea of reforming the global economic governance system and ‘strengthen the open, transparent, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory and multilateral trading system based on the established international principles and rules, contributing to the development of an open world economy, ensuring fair market access, special and differential treatment for developing countries’.

To strengthen multilateral ties, the SCO Energy Cooperation Strategy until 2030 has been approved. Also, a programme for a new SCO economic dialogue is being developed, an Investment Fund and an Association of SCO Investors are being created and the development of new formats are also planned, i.e. meetings of the heads of administrations of special zones and heads of antimonopoly departments of the member countries. The realisation of an array of other matters was also agreed upon: the Special Working Group on Climate Change, the continuation of existing economic cooperation programmes, increasing transport connectivity, developing cooperation in the fields of logistics, customs regulation, certification, digital technologies, the safe use of artificial intelligence and further increasing the share of national currencies in mutual trade.

In the humanitarian sphere, the parties agreed to include new universities in the SCO University system, expand the number of specialties in it and implement multilateral research and innovation projects. An intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of environmental protection and a programme for the development of cooperation in the field of specially protected natural areas have also been adopted.

Additionally, the world community was clearly called upon to ‘settle the Palestinian question fairly’, intensify international cooperation in combatting terrorism (including acts of chemical and biological terrorism) and drug trafficking (including taking into account the most modern information and communication technologies). Generally speaking, to solidify and improve the non-proliferation regimes of weapons of mass destruction, to adopt an international legally binding document on information security and to observe the principles of the peaceful use of outer space.

Finally, a new open format of SCO Plus was implemented at the summit. In addition to SCO observers and partners, representatives of Turkmenistan and a number of international organisations were also present, including the UN, CIS, CSTO, the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, the Economic Cooperation Organisation, the Islamic Organisation for Food Security. Thus, the dialogue at the meeting was as broad and multifaceted as possible.

The third wave of expansion

One of the most important events of the summit was the technical completion of the procedure for Belarus’ admission to the SCO. The republic has become the 10th member of the organisation and has already expressed its readiness for active and enthusiastic cooperation within its ranks. The President of the Republic of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, voiced support for the idea of ‘indivisible global security’ and proposals to improve cooperation in the spheres of energy, transport, finance and industry, as well as to enhance international food security. A. G. Lukashenko responsibly assured: “in our newfound capacity, we will strive to align our proposals with the initiatives of our organisation as much as possible” and “work hand in hand with the new presidency to implement joint priorities”.

SCO is accepting new members for the third time in its existence. In 2017, India and Pakistan became members of the organisation; in 2023, Iran did the same. Expansion is not a quick process; technically, the accession of a state to the organisation not only means completing a long process of coordination and reaching consensus among all participants on its admission, but also the mandatory acceptance of all obligations of an SCO member through the simultaneous signing and ratification of existing agreements.

Having the status of dialogue partner and observer serves as the stepping stone to permanent membership. At this moment, Mongolia and Afghanistan are SCO observers, while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Cambodia, Qatar, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.

Evidently, by now most of Eurasia is involved in SCO in one way or another. At the same time, it should be understood that this organisation is not an interests-based club or a forum, but a real and complex structure dealing with the entirety of multilateral relations. This includes the security sector and very sensitive issues that imply the existence of common principles and obligations. There is a rich and mutually beneficial multilateral interaction within SCO, and countries with similar views on the international arena are becoming participants. Needless to say, there are exceptions to everything; there are also states in SCO that, due to contradictions amongst themselves, sometimes limit their interaction, particularly in the cases of India-China and India-Pakistan. This, however, is natural; it is not acceptable to force cooperation and share all information within the framework SCO, and it is difficult to even imagine such a situation. The need to coordinate options for new expansion with all permanent members is a normal practice, as cooperation requires trust between all parties. There is no doubt that the accession of new countries to the organisation will continue, and this shall naturally be in compliance with all procedures and with the inclusion into the system of cooperation in full.


Ksenia Muratshina, PhD in History, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook