There will be no peaceful road towards to Westphalian world order. Fasten your seat belts – it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
A new book by scholar Glenn Diesen, The Ukraine War & The Eurasian World Order, out in mid-February, asks the make-or-break question of the young 21st century: will the Hegemon accept a new geopolitical reality, or will it go Captain Ahab on Moby Dick and drag us all to the depths of a – nuclear – abyss?
An extra touch of poetic beauty is that the analysis is conducted by a Scandinavian. Diesen is a professor at the University of Southeast Norway (USN) and an associate editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. He had a stint at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, working closely with the inimitable Sergey Karaganov.
It goes without saying that European MSM won’t touch him; rabid yells – “Putinista!” – prevail, including in Norway, where he’s been a prime target of cancel culture.
That’s irrelevant, anyway. What matters is that Diesen, an affable, unfailingly polite man and an ultra-sharp scholar, is aligned with the rarified cream of the crop who is asking the questions that really matter; among them, whether we are heading towards a Eurasian-Westphalian world order.
Apart from a meticulous deconstruction of the proxy war in Ukraine that devastatingly debunks, with proven facts, the official NATOstan narrative, Diesen offers a concise, easily accessible mini-history of how we got here.
He starts to make the case harking back to the Silk Roads: “The Silk Road was an early model of globalization, although it did not result in a common world order as the civilizations of the world were primarily connected to nomadic intermediaries.”
The demise of the Heartland-based Silk Road, actually roads, was caused by the rise of the thalassocratic European powers reconnecting the world in a different way. Yet the hegemony of the collective West could only be fully achieved by applying Divide and Rule across Eurasia.
We did not in fact had “five centuries of western dominance”, according to Diesen: it was more like three, or even two (see, for instance, the work of Andre Gunder Frank). In a historical Long View that barely registers.
What is indeed The Big Picture now is that “the unique world order” produced by controlling “the vast Eurasian continent from the maritime periphery is coming to an end”.
Mackinder is hit by a train
Diesen hits the nail on the head when it comes to the Russia-China strategic partnership – on which the overwhelmingly majority of European intellectuals is clueless (a crucial exception is French historian, demographer and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd, whose latest book I analyzed here.)
With a lovely on the road formulation, Diesen shows how “Russia can be considered the successor of the Mongolian nomads as the last custodian of the Eurasian land corridor”, while China revives the Ancient Silk Roads “with economic connectivity”. In consequence, “a powerful Eurasian gravitational pull is thus reorganizing the supercontinent and the wider world.”
Poviding context, Diesen needs to engage in an obligatory detour to the basics of the Great Game between the Russian and British empires. What stands out is how Moscow already was pivoting to Asia all the way to the late 19th century, when Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte started to develop a groundbreaking road map for a Eurasia political economy, “borrowing from Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List.”
Witte “wanted to end Russia’s role as an exporter of natural resources to Europe as it resembled ‘the relations of colonial countries with their metropolises’”.
And that implies going back to Dostoyevsky, who argued that “Russians are as much Asiatics as European. The mistake of our policy for the past two centuries has been to make the people of Europe believe that we are true Europeans (…) It will be better for us to seek alliances with the Asiatics.” Dostoyevsky meets Putin-Xi.
Diesen also needs to go through the obligatory references to Mackinder’s “heartland” obsession – which is the basis of all Anglo-American geopolitics for the past hundred and twenty years.
Mackinder was spooked by railway development – especially the Trans-Siberian by the Russians – as it enabled Moscow to “emulate the nomadic skills of the Scythians, Huns and Mongols” that were essential to control most of Eurasia.
Mackinder was particularly focused on railways acting “chiefly as feeders to ocean-going commerce”. Ergo, being a thalassocratic power was not enough: “The heartland is the region to which under modern conditions, sea power can be refused access.”
And that’s what leads to the Rosetta Stone of Anglo-American geopolitics: to “prevent the emergence of a hegemon or a group of states capable of dominating Europe and Eurasia that could threaten the dominant maritime power.”
That explains everything from WWI and WWII to the permanent NATO obsession in preventing a solid rapprochement between Germany and Russia, by any means necessary.
The Little Multipolar Helmsman
Diesen offers a succinct perspective of Russian Eurasianists of the 1920s such as Trubetskoi and Savitsky, who were promoting an alternative path to the USSR.
They conceptualized that with Anglo-American thalassocracy applying Divide and Rule in Russia, what was needed was a Eurasian political economy based on mutual cooperation: a stark prefiguration of the Russia-China drive to multipolarity.
Savitsky in fact could have been writing today: “Eurasia has previously played a unifying role in the Old World. Contemporary Russia, absorbing this tradition”, must abandon war as a method of unification.
Cue to post-Maidan in 2014. Moscow finally got the message that trying to build a Greater Europe “from Lisbon to Vladivostok” was a non-starter. Thus the new concept of Greater Eurasian Partnership was born. Sergey Karaganov, with whom Diesen worked at the Higher School of Economics, was the father of the concept.
Greater Eurasia Partnership repositions Russia “from the periphery of Europe and Asia to the center of a large super-region.” In short, a pivot to the East – and the consolidation of the Russia-China partnership.
Diesen dug up an extraordinary passage in the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, proving how the Little Helmsman in 1990 was a visionary prefiguring multipolar China:
“In the future when the world becomes three-polar, four-polar or five-polar, the Soviet Union, no matter how weakened it may be and even if some of its republics withdraw from it, will still be one pole. In the so-called multipolar world, China too will be a pole (…) Our foreign policies remain the same: first, opposing hegemonism and power politics and safeguarding world peace; and second, working to establish a new international political order and a new international economic order.”
Diesen breaks it down, noting how China has to a certain extent “replicated the three-pillared American System of the early 19th century, in which the U.S. developed a manufacturing base, physical transportation infrastructure, and a national bank to counter British economic hegemony.”
Enter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); the AIIB; the de-dollarization drive; the China International Payment System (CIPS); increased use of yuan in international trade; the use of national currencies; Made in China 2025; The Digital Silk Road; and last but not least, BRICS 10 and the NDB, the BRICS development bank.
Russia matched some of it – as in the Eurasia Development Bank (EDB) of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and in advancing the harmonization of financial arrangements of BRI and EAEU projects via the SCO.
Diesen is one of the very few Western analysts who actually understands the drive to multipolarity: “BRICS+ is anti-hegemony and not anti-Western, as the objective is to create a multipolar system and not assert collective dominance over the West.”
Diesen also contends that the emerging Eurasian World Order is “seemingly based on conservative principles.” That’s correct, as the Chinese system is drenched in Confucianism (social integration, stability, harmonious relationships, respect for tradition and hierarchy), part of the keen sense of belonging to a distinct, sophisticated civilization: that’s the foundation of Chinese nation-building.
Can’t bring Russia-China down
Diesen’s detailed analysis of the Ukraine proxy war, “a predictable consequence of an unsustainable world order”, is extrapolated to the battleground where the future, new world order is being decided; it is “either global hegemony or Westphalian multipolarity.”
Everyone with a brain by now knows how Russia absorbed and re-transformed everything thrown by the collective West after the start of the Special Military Operation (SMO). The problem is the rarified plutocracy that really runs the show will always refuse to acknowledge reality, as Diesen frames it: “Irrespective of the outcome of the war, the war has already become the graveyard of liberal hegemony.”
The overwhelming majority of the Global South clearly sees that even as what Ray McGovern indelibly defined as MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex) cast the Russia-China partnership as the main “threats” – in reality those that created the “gravitational pull to reorganize the world order towards multipolarity” – they can’t bring Russia-China down geoeconomically.
So there’s no question “the conflicts of the future world order will continue to be militarized.” That’s where we are at the crossroads. There will be no peaceful road towards to Westphalian world order. Fasten your seat belts – it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
By Pepe Escobar
Published by SCF
Republished by The 21st Century
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 21cir.com.