Russian Approach on Multipolarity: Historical Perspective
Russian-Chinese Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order, adopted in Moscow on 23 April 1997, affirmed a diversity of political, economic, and cultural paths of development for all countries and an increasing role for forces advocating peace and broad international cooperation.
Many ascribe the first steps in developing a strategy for multipolarity in international relations to Russia as well. Indeed, this claim has some merit. In Moscow on April 23rd, 1997, Russia and China signed the “Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order”, and on May 15th the declaration was registered in the UN.
The document asserted that the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China will strive to promote the development of a multipolar world and new international order. The text also remarked that international relations had undergone profound changes at the end of the 20th century and affirmed a diversity of political, economic, and cultural paths of development for all countries and an increasing role for forces advocating peace and broad international cooperation. Furthermore, the document reads: “A growing number of countries are beginning to recognize the need for mutual respect, equality, and mutual advantage – but not for hegemony and power politics – and for dialogue and cooperation – but not for confrontation and conflict. The establishment of a peaceful, stable, just and rational new international political and economic order is becoming a pressing need of the times and an imperative of historical development.”
In addition, the declaration voiced the notion that every state has a right to, proceeding on the basis of its unique circumstances, independently and autonomously choose its own path of development without interference from other states. In the words of the statement: “Differences in their social systems, ideologies and value systems must not become an obstacle to the development of normal relations between States.” At the same time, it was emphasized that China and Russia are switching to a new form of mutual relations and that such is not directed against any other countries.
Hopes then arose that the UN would play an important role in establishing a new international order, and developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement were named as important forces contributing to the formation of a multipolar world. The Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on the International Order of the 21st Century, which was signed in Moscow on July 1st, 2005 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and PRC President Xu Jintao, logically continued this line. This declaration was a response to the US invasion of Iraq, a reaction to this challenge which was intended to strengthen efforts to organize a new international order. One part in the new declaration read:
The main trend of the world today is not towards a “clash of civilizations”; rather, it underscores the imperative of engaging in global cooperation. The diversity of civilizations in the world and the diversification of development models should be respected and safeguarded. Differences in the historical backgrounds, cultural traditions, social and political systems, value concepts, and development paths of countries should not become an excuse for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Different civilizations should conduct dialogue, exchange experiences, draw on each other’s experiences, learn from each other’s strong points to make up for their own shortcomings, and seek common progress on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance. Cultural exchanges should be increased in order to establish relations of friendship and trust among countries.
Russia and China drew attention to the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the intensification of cooperation between BRIC countries and later BRICS, which is seen as an attempt at establishing individual rules for the game at least in each country’s zone of strategic interests. In the sphere of its own strategic interests, as proclaimed by President Medvedev following Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in August 2008, Russia uses the Eurasian Economic Community as an economic integration instrument and military cooperation within the CSTO. Directly introduced into Russia’s foreign policy doctrine in 2000 was the provision that “Russia will seek the creation of a multipolar system of international relations which genuinely reflects the diversity of the modern world with its diversity of interests.”
It should be noted, however, that Russian politicians, diplomats, and scholars’ understanding of the need to develop a theory of multipolarity have its roots in a crisis situation. First, there was the collapse of the Soviet Union which was accompanied by ethnic conflicts. A similar collapse occurred in Yugoslavia and led to several foreign interventions and the transformation of the regional political map. NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia and the Albanian proclamation of Kosovo were a painful blow not only to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which at the time consisted of Serbia and Montenegro but to the European geopolitical system as a whole. In addition, the collapse of Marxist doctrine and the negative experience of IMF and World Bank reforms in Russia led to an understanding of the need to develop a distinct foreign and domestic policy. Although the inertia of the Soviet era made itself felt, certain attempts were made at Rethinking Russia’s role and place in the global political system.
September 11th, 2001 also affected perceptions of the global system in a new vein. It is no coincidence that in an article from September 2003, a Russian advocate of multipolarity and political heavyweight who served as prime minister in 1999, Yevgeny Primakov, noted that “what followed the events of September 11 showed more clearly than ever the confrontation between two trends. On the one hand, there was the preservation of the world order, save for some modernization, founded on such a mechanism for multilateral actions as the United Nations. On the other, there was ‘unilateralism’, or the bet that decisions that are vitally important for humanity can be taken by one country, the United States, on the grounds of Washington’s subjective perception of international reality.” Primakov pointed out that the EU was becoming a center of power comparable in its capacity to the US, while China, Russia, India, and Japan were also in no hurry to trail behind the wake of events set by Washington. Also highlighted in this regard is the UN’s role in the formation of multipolarity. Previously, Primakov had observed that “the uneven development of states will manifest itself primarily in antagonistic forms…historically, no dominant power can establish a unipolar world order.”
Here it is important to note that Yevgeny Primakov had at the time already condemned the US leadership, pointing instead to rapidly expanding opportunities for other countries and alliances. “The fall of the USSR as a counterbalance to America does not give reason to believe that the US is an undisputed winner and, accordingly, that the world should be unipolar with only one center in Washington. This contradicts the very course of global development. For instance, China and India’s respective GDP’s are larger than that of the US. US leadership in scientific and technological progress as one of the main conditions of the unipolar world is also being actively contested today.” This is confirmed by statistical data: “By 2011 four major centers of scientific progress had formed – the USA (31% of global spending on scientific research in terms of purchasing power parity), the European Union (24%), China (14%), and Japan (11%).”
Primakov argued against liberals and globalists, affirming that: The transition to a multipolar system is a process, not a single change with a finished character. Therefore, great importance is attached to various trends, sometimes contradictory ones, manifesting themselves over the course of this transition. Some of them have their source in the unequal development of states and the successes or failures of integration associations. The fluctuating ratio between, relatively speaking, the course towards restarting relations and the inertial line of states’ conduct inherited from the Cold War and ingrained during the period of outright confrontation, is directly impacted. This relation between two tendencies manifests itself in the political, military, and economic fields as well. Therefore, the correct conclusion that a multipolar world order does not in itself in the conditions of globalization lead to conflict situations or military clashes, does not exclude the altogether complex environment in which the process of the transition to such a system takes place.
Being a supporter of the creation of the Russia-India-China triangle that could balance out the aggressive behavior of the US and other challenges, Primakov is rightfully considered to be one of the first Russian practicians of multipolarity. Thanks to his official position and numerous foreign contacts, Russia’s position vis-a-vis the future world order was successfully conveyed to the widest range of decision-makers possible and consolidated in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.
Alexander Dugin’s doctrine of neo-Eurasianism was another ideological and intellectual platform which gave impetus to the development of multipolarity. The program of Eurasianist ideology asserts: At the level of a planetary trend, Eurasianism is a global, revolutionary, civilizational concept which, in gradually refining itself, is to become a new ideological platform for mutual understanding and cooperation for a wide conglomerate of different forces, states, peoples, cultures, and confessions which reject Atlanticist globalization…Eurasianism is the sum of all the natural and artificial, objective and subjective obstacles along the path to unipolar globalization, at once elevated from the level of simple negation to be a positive project, a creative alternative.
Although classical Eurasianism was concerned solely with the fate of Russia which it characterized as “Eurasia” by virtue of its uniqueness, vast territory, and the central situation between “classical” Europe and Asia, Alexander Dugin’s concept has supplemented this ideology with new methodologies and scholarly concepts. Thus, Eurasianism has acquired a global dimension and moved beyond the borders of the Eurasian continent. In this new understanding, “Eurasianism is a philosophy of multipolar globalization designed to unite all the societies and peoples of the earth in the construction of a unique and authentic world, every component of which would be organically derived from historical traditions and local cultures.”
Rather close to this formula is the opinion of another Russian scholar, Boris Martynov, who noted that newly emergent multi polarity cannot be of any other dimension than civilizational. Martynov emphasizes: Inter-civilizational communication is already a reality of the modern world in which different economic and financial institutions, non-state structures, and religious, business, and public associations and, finally, individuals as representatives of their civilizational archetypes are increasingly active apart from states and alongside their lasting multi-profile and multilevel international contacts of various kinds…In addition, the advantage of a system of multipolar world order in view of the unipolar and bipolar ones lies in that it must be based on the law to function.
The correctness of this observation is obvious in the case of the unipolar world which operates on the basis of the ‘understandings’ of the main player in the global system. This is true for bipolarity as well, where each of the two ‘equally-responsible’ subjects strives to ensure themselves a ‘free hand’ in their zones of influence regardless of international law. However, law is needed for interaction between several major players wielding approximately comparable might and influence in order to guarantee a reasonable modus vivendi between them. This is especially true for such a complex system as civilizational multipolarity.
However, far from all Russian scholars and diplomats have assigned a positive nature to emerging multipolarity. For example, the director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute for US and Canadian Studies, S.N. Rogov, has claimed that “the new polycentric system lacks common ‘rules of the game’, norms, and institutions which could effectively regulate the interaction between centers of power, including both cooperation and rivalry.” Thus, in this view, the trend towards multipolarity generates “instability and unpredictability as to the evolution of the modern system of international relations and threatens to send the situation spinning out of control.” This claim is clearly based on the mondialist paradigm which insists on a strictly limited ideological standard. But in general Russian efforts are seems like strong attempts to re-build world order with respects of all nations, states, peoples and cultural-religion traditions.
 Russian-Chinese Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order, adopted in Moscow on 23 April 1997. Letter dated 15 May 1997 from the Permanent Representatives of China and the Russian Federation to the United Nations addNations addressedetary-General, Distr. GENERAL A/52/153, S/1997/384, 20 May 1997
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