The rise of Russia and the inevitable multi-polar world

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Eritrea’s President at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 31, 2023. Picture: Mikhail Metzel / Sputnik / AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Eritrea’s President at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 31, 2023. Picture: Mikhail Metzel / Sputnik / AFP

Published Jul 31, 2023


By Kwacha Geshom Nhlema

It would be folly to think that the United States of America is no longer relevant.

It would be equally unwise to think that the US is still the hegemon in world politics, although it has attempted to ensure that this status quo remains for centuries to come, if not indefinitely.

It has done this using a hybrid system which includes loans, land grabs, installing proxy regimes, using international organisations as instruments of foreign policy, social culture dominance, sabotage, and smear campaigning

This is a combination of diplomacy, law, force and other covert operations in order to consolidate world power and central authority in Washington. The US had an early advantage because of exclusive access to advanced technologies such weapons, information, cyber-intelligence and lots of other areas.

This made it difficult to disagree with US policy and win.

With the rapid pace forward in globalisation and creation of a global market, advanced technologies are now being exchanged quicker and easier than before. The US no longer has that privilege of having monopolistic access to technologies.

This has led to the autonomy of nation states, US hegemony has ceased to exist and thus alternatives in allegiances and alliances are forming.

As a further consequence of globalisation and access to information, there has been a rise in young academics who are not as easily malleable then their less informed predecessors. This has led to many scholars around the globe to seek new forms of international governance which is not tied to the interest of a particular nation state. New generations are starting to perceive that American soft power of diplomacy is costly in the long run.

States such as Russia have stepped back into the international arena to act as an antithesis to the American infamous hegemony.

Russia’s current president, Vladimir Putin once proclaimed that the US does not have any partners but rather foreign policy vassals. He is continuously promising that Russia is the better alternative from which mutual symbiotic relationships are possible.

Throughout Putin’s presidency, we have seen Russia reasserting itself in world politics.

When former president Donald Trump declared an America first foreign policy that essentially sought to minimise extending foreign aid to allies and third world countries, that left a vacuum whereby other emerging world powers such as Russia can seek to have dominant influence.

In 2019, Russia hosted the first Russia-Africa summit. It took advantage of the growing frustration from African leaders with the US and their Western allies for their unwanted interference, their economic and political impositions disguised as aid.

Russia is offering an alternative of being a true equal partner as opposed to the US’ neo-imperialistic approach.

Russia has played a mediatory role in the Syrian war. Russia has supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad even though the US is in favour of the opposition.

In neighbouring Belarus, Russia has backed the current President Aleksander Lukashenko whilst the US favours the opposition.

In Venezuela, a US-led operation to oust the current President Nicolas Maduro, was foiled thanks to Russia’s assistance in providing “military consultations” to the Venezuelan government.

Russia insists that nation states have the right to self-determination. It has demonstrated this by its successful campaign to curb US interference in its domestic politics.

It has done so by suppressing foreign sponsored non-governmental organisations within then country; decreasing dollar-based trading to nullify US’ draconian foreign economic policies in a vast number of ways. This is an attractive alternative compared to the current hegemonic international law whereby the US dictates “the rules of the game”.

Russia has reasserted itself as a force to be reckoned with. This is especially attractive to countries who have ideological differences with the US such as Iran, North Korea, China, etc.

As a counter measure to Russia’s growing influence, the US has used has resorted to several measures including a harsh rhetoric such as that Russia is recruiting “rogue states” in order to undermine the “liberal and democratic world”.

The US has also been using international organisations such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to further its domestic competitive ambitions. The guise of curbing the Russian threat is seen as effective in taking punitive action against the Russian economy and thus making the US more competitive in return.

Furthermore, any country that does business with Russia runs a risk of being sanctioned by association.

Regardless of the counter measures by the US, its monopoly to scarce resources has eroded and its actions that had a profound impact in the past do not have the same impact today.

With Russia being a nuclear state, the threat of force by the US is met with the reality of mutual assured destruction.

This status quo is reshaping the entire world in the sense that nation-states are reshaping the foreign policies and the current trend suggest a shift from a US dominated international arena to that of a multi-polar world.

* Kwacha Geshom Nhlema is a South African International Relations scholar.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.