Five hypotheses about the future world
We can be assured that COVID-19 will be defeated, as soon as possible. The excessive angst and fear we currently feel will gradually subside, as our science finds effective antidotes so that people can regard the years of the pandemic as a horrific dream.
At the same time, it’s also clear that a post-pandemic world will be very different from the world we knew before. The argument that the world needs a massive overhaul to move to the next stage of its development has been very popular since the end of the Cold War. Some prophesied it would come as a result of a deep economic crisis, while others argued that full-scale war might be on the cards. As so often happens, however, what turned the world upside down came out of nowhere. In just a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light all of the many contradictions and setbacks of our time. He then described the trajectory of economic prosperity, scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements to come, opening up new opportunities for self-fulfillment and growth. The question that arises today is: who will be able to make the most of the new reality and take advantage of the opportunities that are opening up? And how?
COVID-19 has also left its mark on the current architecture of international relations.
At the turn of the century, it was mired in crisis. The end of the cold war towards the end of the 20e century effectively marked the beginning of the transition from the bipolar world order established in the aftermath of World War II to a model yet to be created. A fierce struggle was to unfold over what was to be the new world order, with the issue still unresolved today. A number of states, as well as non-state actors, ready to take advantage of this uncertainty in world affairs and redistribute spheres of influence around the world, that is what it ultimately boils down to. In a sense, such a scenario should not have come as a surprise since the contradictions between the profound changes encompassing the public domain and the rigid model of international relations established in the mid-1920se century by the victorious powers of World War II has grown steadily over the past decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a severe and unprecedented showdown that has exposed the limits of the current architecture of international relations. Previous crises – whether financial turmoil, counterterrorism, regional conflicts or otherwise – were in fact temporary and rather limited in their implications, serious as they were. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every country in the world, regardless of their political regimes and social conventions, their economic prosperity and their military might. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the modern world as well as the growing risks and challenges; and if ignored, they could plunge the world into a downward spiral of self-destruction.
The pandemic continues, which means that we have yet to draw a definitive conclusion about its consequences for the system of international relations. That being said, a number of tentative conclusions are already taking shape.
Point 1. Globalization, despite its obvious side effects, has already changed the face of our world, making it irreversibly truly interdependent. This has already been said; however, opponents of globalization have tried – and continue to try – to minimize its consequences for modern society. They happen to want to see globalization as little more than an episode in international life. While it has been going on for quite some time now, it is nonetheless unable to change the familiar landscape of the world. The pandemic has raised the curtain on what the modern world really looks like. Here, state borders are nothing more than an administrative and bureaucratic construction because they are powerless to prevent active communication between people, be it spiritual, scientific, informational or of any other nature. Likewise, official borders are not an obstacle to the proliferation of modern security threats between states. Waves of COVID-19 have wreaked havoc in every country. No nation has been able to escape this fate. The same will happen with other challenges as well, unless we recognize this obvious reality to start thinking about how states should act in the new circumstances.
Point 2. The international system has withstood the initial assault despite relentless alarmists prophesying its imminent collapse. After a fairly brief period of confusion and helplessness, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the G20 and other global and regional organizations have acted together (although some better than others. ), taking urgent action to contain the pandemic. This proves that the system of international relations that was built after World War II still works, even if it is far from perfect or devoid of flaws.
In the same vein, the fight against the pandemic has shown that many international structures are increasingly out of step with modern reality, proving unable to mobilize quickly enough to make a difference in our constantly changing world. This, once again, brings to the fore the issue of a reformed United Nations system (and other international institutions), as the issue becomes increasingly urgent. In the future, the international community will likely face challenges no less dangerous than the current pandemic. We have to prepare for it.
Point 3. As the role of international institutions in global affairs weakens, centrifugal tendencies gain momentum, with countries – mostly world leaders – beginning to put their national interests first. The global information war over various COVID-19 vaccines is a prime example. Not only has it seriously upset the successes of the fight against the pandemic, but it has also added a new dimension to mutual mistrust and rivalry. The world has effectively fallen back to the “rules” of the Cold War era, when countries with differing socio-political systems desperately sought to prove their superiority, without caring too much about common interests such as security and development.
The pursuit of such a policy today has serious consequences for every nation, as new security threats pay little attention to borders. The recent events in Afghanistan should serve as a lesson for all of us, showing that any serious regional crisis, even in the most remote corner of the world, will inevitably have global implications. Therefore, we all face a difficult choice: either to unite against these new challenges or to become hostage to the various extremists and adventurers.
Point 4. Some political leaders were quick to use the challenges of the pandemic as a pretext to strengthen the role of the state at the expense of fundamental democratic principles and binding international obligations. This may be justified or even necessary at the time of the most acute phases of a serious crisis, when all available resources must be mobilized to repel the threat.
However, one gets the impression that some politicians are more and more in the wake of these extended powers and would very much like to cling to them, relying on the likelihood of further crises. This line of thinking could prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to a new model of international relations to be established in accordance with modern reality, where States would be called upon to unite their efforts in the interest of global security and development.
Point 5. As always in times of deep crisis, the international community looks to the great powers and their leaders for guidance. The future course of history in all areas of life, including of course international relations, will depend on what these countries choose to do, whether solidarity trumps national selfishness. President Putin’s initiative to hold a meeting of heads of state of permanent members of the UN Security Council could be a good starting point to foster understanding and seek new ways forward . We cannot continue to postpone a frank and in-depth conversation about the future world order, as the costs of further delays could be too great for everyone.
From our partner RIAC