«Cold peace/war» or «cold development»?

Andrii Yermolaiev

philosopher, Head of Strategic Group Sofia

The world has never been a paradise. Every page of a world history book mentions wars or crises, domestic turmoils and catastrophes.

Calm and prosperous times are very relative. The memory of such times is often associated with local histories of individual countries and peoples. However when one enjoys rapid growth or a temporary respite the other faces its «dark ages» and bloody wars.

Starting from XIX century and first «global age» - Pax Britannica, events on different continents became more and more interconnected and synchronised. Recessions and expansions of local economies at that moment were dependant on world trade while political climate and domestic turmoils - on the world empires' relations.

XX century - is a century of the Great World War (World War I and II, «first Cold War») and of new waves of globalisation, fusing countries and continents into a single living system of political, economic and cultural relations.

Today ( first half of XXI century) a new virus on one continent causes a pandemic on all of them and conflict or political coup in one country - an unrest in the world capitals, secret service intrigues and global militarisation. It's doubtful that Hungarian sculptor and architect Erno Rubik, creating his famous cube in 1974, assumed that he was creating one of the most original mechanical demonstration of this global interconnection itself.
Multipolar or Heteropolar?
Today changes in the geopolitical weather and ideological climate became truly planetary, ignoring natural peculiarities, latitudes and longitudes. If it is «warm» - it is warm everywhere, if it's «freezing» - then the remotest islands would feel it.

The emerged «cold war» has been discussed by top politicians and media outlets for at least a decade.

Our memory takes us to the past rivalry of two super powers (USA and USSR), two international alliances (military-political blocs and their partners) and two ideologies - liberal and communist. Times when nuclear weapons and space technology provided stability of «cold» coexistence.

In a sense, this «Cold war» was more of a «Cold peace» where mutual fear of destruction was a simultaneous catalyst and a powerful engine of scientific and technical progress and social change. Essentially, the «arms race» of two systems was just a front for «development race». Where, at least it seemed so, the winner takes it all, meaning the whole world. But more importantly the victory was perceived as an ideological triumph, «destruction of an evil empire» and in this sense - an upcoming «end of history». During the course of confrontation each party imagined its end differently - a triumph of a communist idea for one and a superiority of the universal liberal order for the other.

However, despite an acute rivalry in the distant from USSR and USA territories and a massive amount of local wars and conflicts in the 1950-1980s the Cold war turned out to be a convenient and safe way to compete for spheres of influence, resources and geopolitical loyalty of the post-colonial world. Post-colonial countries were finding their ways to modernisation and narrowing the gap between them an ex-empires, while two competing «poles» actively offered and imposed their models of socio-economic development.

Half a century ago the world economy was just beginning to enter a «second globalisation» age, based on complex manufacturing ties and deep division of labour as opposed to a simple trade.

However instead of expected «evening out» of development, the late XX century showed a much more complex system of specialisations and new local monopolies based on extraction of natural resources, food, complicated manufacturing, logistics and transportation services. The world of geoeconomic fools, who occupied their special place in the complicated transnational network.

«The second globalisation» (1960-2000s) turned out to be a chain that keeps together the strong and the weak. It appeared that this system does not allow a monopoly of one winner, or even two. In this sense both USSR collapse (1990s) and dawn of unilateral «liberal hegemony» of the USA (2000s) are completely natural events.

New renters of influence, new illusions of power created a new ambition - multipolarity.

However if half a century ago two competing «poles» concentrated all the components of power in themselves (military power, since and technology, development resources, economic capabilities for expansion and aid for countries-satellites, ideological leadership), in a new «multipolar» world power and influence appeared to be dispersed.

Advanced science and technology and military power - USA; new technology and social organisation - Europe; industrial base and science, special social organisation and cultural characteristics - China; science and military technology, strategic raw materials, territorial capital and a special social organisation - the Russian Federation (in the future - a new union state); IT industry, demographic and cultural capital - India; strategic raw materials, territorial capital, a special social organisation (communal statehood) - Central and South Africa. Etc. The details and characteristics may be debated. But the core thought is that under the circumstances of emerged deep labour division on the world market, up to «clustering» of global economy, and due to dependance of infrastructure and manufacturing on raw materials (for example in a case of microprocessors manufacturing in Taiwan) global power cannot be maintained by one «pole».

Global power became distributed and obtained a critical inter-dependancy nature. Even if so-called poles are not equal among themselves, their influence and capability to create a turmoil in the world grew immensely in comparison with the weakness and submission to hegemonies most actors faced in a bipolar system in 1950-1980s. Hence the dispersed power in a global multipolarity allows to create new, non-linear ties of different «power centres», while the competition itself is of a high dynamics.

It is better to define this system of relations as «heteropolarity» of a new world order with distributed global power rather than «multipolarity». Submission and affiliation to a bloc is replaced by local monopolies, partial advantage and development egoism, often identified as «state renaissance» or new nationalism.

There are no hegemonies but there is a disproportional distribution of power - from military and technological to cultural and ideological. And only fragile balance of this power provides general stability of a new heteropolar world order.

The collapse of the «old order» and transition to the yet to be established «new world order» is not just about international institutions. Crises penetrated all societies and their social organisations, from «advanced» to «third world». Migration turmoils in the West, «yellow vests» movement in the EU, BLM movement and a thin line of a new civil war in the USA, non-stop anti-vaccination movements in the nation-wide lockdown times, radical islamist terrorism and civil upheavals against greedy and corrupt corporate states - are only a part of the social turmoil process that shows a global instability of the transition.

Under these historical circumstances the most important, even crucial is organisation and internal stability of the social system, its ability to self-organise and self-mobilise. «Liquid», non-consolidated, unstable societies end up being prone to internal atomisation, «separatisation» and conflict and as a result to new collapses and crises.

And in this sense, as opposed to the age of territorial empires («wars for territories») and postcolonial geopolitical domination of XX century (management of «satellite» countries) the rivalry for «collection of systems» (similar in culture of social organisation) is taking place.
Gunpowder smelling geocultural wars
In this new heteropolar world human beings are becoming an area of competition - as a source of human a social capital. This resource is more important than any raw material or new technology. Competition for human and social capital, an aspiration to include local communities into new transnational organisation systems are a core of a new global race for development that may be more intense and fierce than the first Cold war.

«What the human and society is like» further defines «who the human and their society sticks with». The first place is taken by global media-industrial and information-industrial complexes, surpassing yesterday's leader - military-industrial complex.

«Cold development» in the conditions of the actual globalism means that competition for human and social capital will take place and the «contact lines» will be drawn not only and even not really along the formal borders of states and unions, but also «inside», in a real day-to-day life of every society, in national politics, in virtual space of global networks, in media, in spiritual and cultural life, in day-to-day ways.

Geocultural worlds, like Euler circles in 3D, will seize and capture different social layers and groups, regardless of where they live and what citizenship they hold. Transnational communities united by interests, faith and cultural ties are already breaking established borders, while transnational citizenship phenomena - dual or poly-citizenship - becomes more and more widespread.

However the more aggressive and dangerous external penetrations into local worlds are, the more aggressive and conservative resistance of each local system is - it creates traditionalism, conservatism and nationalism.

The emerging ideology of the new (second) cold war, more precisely - cold development, takes on new interesting shapes that combine old ideological stereotypes on how society functions (capitalism/socialism, democracy/autocracy) with historical-cultural characteristics of different societies - «Anglo-Saxon world», «Romano-Germanic world», «Russian world», «Turk world», «Chinese civilisation», «Islamic world» etc. Among new ambitious aspirants to the cultural polarity are Central Europe, South-east Asia, India, Africa (afrocentrism).

BritAmerica and China have and ideological base for «cold relations» (liberal democracy against bureaucratic market socialism and autocracy), as well as BritAmerica and Russia (democracy against autocracy, liberalism against conservative «Russian world»), USA and Iran (anti-terrorist rhetoric, islamism against «Western crusades»), and other actors. Even more often it is about culture and mentality.

Herewith it should be noted that a majority of modern states are a historical result of the Great World War (1900s-1975), that drastically changes political and territorial landscape of the world in the aftermath of two «hot» and one «cold» wars. In the new landscape more and more countries and international unions aim for a new, post-ideological modelling of its development, using conservative historical-spiritual orienteers from «national renaissance» to historical renaissance as a priority ( look at the nearly forgotten Macron's initiative to rename France into Gaul (lat.- Gallia )). Among such ideas - «trans-border nations» idea and new communities inspired by united Europe, «cultural worlds» policy (form «francophone world» to «Russian world» and «Turk alliance»), new theocracy (Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, failed ISIS) etc.

In the conditions of the de-facto globalisation of the commercial and manufacturing ties social structures and political organisation of societies (a state) remain a last bastion for internal stability of social systems. Thus conflicts and convergence happens based on historical and cultural-civilisational basis.

In a heteropolar world a mutual (collective) strengthening is possible given that there is no ground and trigger for internal distrust and repulsion, but there is a relevant, tangible historical-cultural ground for trust and interaction.

The new world order has not yet been established, however we can already see its shadows:

  1. The internal division of the West into transatlantic BritAmerican alliance ( USA-Great Britain) and EU core (Germany, France,Italy, Spain, Belgium etc) is more evident.

Despite the remaining unity in the security and defence area (NATO), parties entered a major race for technological advance and geoeconomic spheres of influence («hydrogen technologies», green energy, and everything that comes with it - standards, technological solutions and new technological markets).

The EU, leaning on interests and needs of the «core» countries, actively executes independent policy of the «pole» while reserving a right for strategic autonomy when it comes to its Euro-Atlantic partners. The idea of the «strategic autonomy» itself has already became a set of collective security accelerated development instruments (PESCO, 2017), technology (hydrogen strategy, 2020), energy and balance ( Nord stream 1-2 in association with Russia), execution of their own investment program Global Gateway ( 2021, presented as a competitor for Chinese «Belt-Road», but in fact is a competitor for British-American initiative on collective investment program «Build Back Better World», 2021).

«Europeanisation» as a promotion of «social democracy» ideals with limited conservatism differs from Euro-Atlantic «radical liberalism beyond borders» more and more.

In Germany, following the change of coalition and appointment of a social-democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the necessity of «turning to the East» and revival of former might is being discussed more often; in France conservative «neo-gaullist» sentiments are growing, also connected to the idea of a «strong France in strong Europe» and restoration of France's influence on continental processes.

In its turn, while loosing control over Old Europe, USA and Great Britain restored past unity of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Brexit, return to the global role and approach to the Commonwealth («Global Britain» doctrine), signing of the Second Euro-Atlantic Charter (Great Britain-USA) and establishment of a new defence alliance AUKUS - is a new strategy, connected to the attempt to reorganise the old order according to key West actors's interests, forwards of Anglo-Saxon world and carriers of old liberal values of free capitalism «beyond borders». BritAmerican project includes influential Anglo-Saxon states - Canada, Australia, Japan, majority of the Commonwealth, whose economies and elites are strongly interconnected with the economies of the leaders. Also an ambitious global project «Summit of Democracies» has been declared, which can be promoted as an Anglo-Saxon alternative to unreformed UN and its ineffective Security Council (a pale ghost of the past Anti-Hitler coalition during the Second World War).

Today, Europe-EU and BritAmerica are becoming two ambitious and competitive poles with a potential of global poles - economically, culturally and ideologically.

2) The collapse of soviet version of socialism created a temporary illusion that historic alternative doesn't exist. However Chinese success in the early XXI century have brought back the forgotten «socialism and capitalism competition». Rivalry of BritAmerica and China gains systematic character, ideologically similar to the rivalry of «two systems» in the late XX century. As Chinese communists say: « The Party has led the people in pioneering a uniquely Chinese path to modernisation, creating a new model for human advancement, and expanding the channels for developing countries to achieve modernisation.» (Communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, November 2021).

Geoproject «One Belt-One Road» backed by hundreds of billions Chinese yuan of investments into infrastructure and industry in countries-partners in Asia, in the East and in Africa is set to provide those «new paths».

Chinese strategy of the expanding experience and support for diversity has already provided advantages in the regions that were more connected to Great Britain and «core» EU countries in the past- in South-East Asia, Africa, Oceania etc.

China has also gained a strategic ally in Eurasia-Russia. Russian-Chinese relations have stopped on the verge of creating a defence union, which scared West.

In Asia - key partners granting a power balance with the West are Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And though old imperial centres, BritAmerica and EU leaders, are dwelling on autocracy and economic success, the main irritating factor for these poles is the success of the political-economic model of the Chinese socialism with a market economy («socialism with Chinese characteristics»).

Under the circumstances of new global transformations practice an example of China may be attractive for those less developed countries that were left dissatisfied with the failed modernisation and «national construction» of 1960-1980s, while ideology of «diversity of development and common destiny» may become an acceptable principle for new world order.

3) «The second transformation» that took place in post-soviet countries due to crisis of corporate state type of 1991-2000 showed both their weakness (up to humiliating «failed state») and new options for development of former soviet empire pieces.

Part of these states, same as many post-colonial national states in other regions, instead of successful modernisation go through irreversible deindustrialisation and destruction of internal social self-organisation. As a result - waves of national separatism, conflicts and government institutions crisis.

A part of these states found themselves in a prison of highly conservative traditionalism, focusing its purpose on raw materials distribution.

The most radical way of battling the risks of second transformation - a restoration - was adopted by Russia. Mobilisation model of economy, maximum use of its raw material potential for autonomous modernisation based on defence industry, militarisation, and proclaimed new territorial redesign of Russia ( geo-project "Northern Sea Route", development of the Far East, re-development of Siberia, creation of new industrial centres).

Restoration of Russia's influence (in particular through involvement in peripheral conflicts - ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Karabakh conflict, annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and support of separatism in Donbas) created grounds for revival of a new Union in a post-soviet area idea. It is possible that in the nearest year or two a new Union will become a new geopolitical reality and participation may be attractive for a list of post-soviet countries and unrecognised republics and conflict regions (for example in Central-East Europe - Serbian Krajina, Transnistria, Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics, in Caucasian region - South Ossetia, Abkhazia etc). The new Union state project may become a real compensation for crisis social systems where the idea of returning to the space of so-called historical Russia may look more attractive than domestic crises and «foreign rule» complex.

4) Crisis and gradual collapse of the «collective» West created a ground for ambitious geocultural project of the «turkic world» (the Great Turan). Currently this project looks like geopolitical ambition of Turkey (which has not achieved its goal to become an EU member). Moderate islam, ethnocultural similarity, risks of new turmoils in Central Asia and in Caucus, personal ambitions of Erdogan - all this made the revival of Great Turan idea possible.

National-modernism of XX century gives way to a geocultural and technological imperialism, which attracts Turkish, along with Azerbaijan, Uzbek, Kazakh elites and numerous leaders of Central Asia.

In 2021 the Turk Council, created in 2009, was transformed into Organisation of Turkic states (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, observers - Turkmenistan and Hungary) and adopted an official doctrine «Turkic global vision-2040».

Despite the domestic instability and economic crises, ambitious Turkey becomes a serious restraining factor for eurasian projects and has its interests in the Black sea (Crimea, Crimean Tatars factor).

Turkic union becomes a new «buffer zone» that will have the same function of deterrence and disengagement as countries of Central-East Europe in Europe. However unlike Central-East Europe Turkic project has a prospect of becoming a full-fledged supranational union, in the event of national-conservatism and cultural renaissance ideas becoming dominant in the geocultural wars in the XXI century.

5) After bloody wars in Iraq, Syria and ISIS defeat the divided islamic world has frozen. However its potential is yet to be expressed. Theocratic Iran and Afghanistan may become new poles of attraction for different passionate movements in the islamic world, creating grounds for «alternate new Near East», countering colour revolutions and external interference of the West. Also the movement of the moderates in Malaysia, particularly popular in South-East Asia has a potential of becoming a pole of attraction. It is these two poles of attraction, not rich, but very conservative Arab world, (even despite the role and potential of OPEC) may determine new power distribution in the Near East and in the South-East Asia for the nearest decade, leaving Turkey with just a «Great Turan» corridor.

6) «Strategic autonomy» is talked about in India. India is one more pole of influence that has special relations with USA and Russia but aims to have a special role both in Indo-Pacific and Asia. Having a huge demographic capital, competitive post-industrial sector India has a unique capability to «deter» China on the regional level, Afghani-Pakistani tie, influence the security of the (for now) crucial for world trade Indian ocean.

7) A group of growing eastern asian states, united by ASEAN (10 member including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines etc) is becoming one of the global competition epicentres. A new union with ASEAN at its core was created in 2020 - a free trade zone RCEP, that also includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and others. Potential of this union, in case it grows into a more capable international organisation, may burry the plans of BritAmerica to create any local controlled structures like TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or Indo-Pacific communities (Indo-Pacific project). It is possible that despite China's and Japan's leadership ambitions in this region, the collective will of ASEAN will be dominant here, an organisation that came a long way from being a subregional organisation in 1960s to a large union ASEAN+3, protected the region's status as non-nuclear (1995 treaty) and plans on creating East-asian union similar to the EU.

The local examples of new hetero-polarity are also ambitions of Central-European countries to have a special role and right for a monopoly in transit potential between Old Europe-EU and Eurasia. But among all existing and potential forms of interaction the Baltic-Black sea project embodied in the Three seas initiative and Lublin treaty 2020 (Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania) may become the most conjunctural and in demand. Practically this would mean a gradual revival of the idea of unites Central-European state (The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 2.0) with a local defence union in partnership with the USA and Great Britain which may be appealing for Ukrainian political elite in the event of peace process failure in the east of the country (Donbas). Transit monopoly on the continent (in fact, control over Baltic-Black sea transport corridor) and national interests may move elite of Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics to play historic games - both with Europe and Russia. Demand and sentiments for such a game have already been shown.

The list of actors, that gained special capabilities and hold a part of world power may be continued.
The new geocultural projects also reflect deeper processes of development models switching from ideological (liberal capitalism and socialism) to so called «integral societies» (convergent models). In «integral societies'» politics prevail conservative, traditionalist approaches, and in economy and social sphere - combination of both market and state-administrative systems features. Nearly all European countries, Russia and post-soveit states, some of Asian, Latin American, Near East countries may be called «integral» (convergent). Overall, despite current, sometimes very contrasting, differences, a general historical trend of a complex convergence, based on geocultural characteristics of the societies may be stated.

As noted by Pitirim Sorokin: «… leaders of the West assure us that the future belongs to the Capitalist ("free-enterprise") type of society and culture. In contrast, … leaders of the Communist nations confidently expect the victory of the Communist type in the coming decades. In difference from both of these predictions I am inclined to think that if mankind avoids new world wars and can overcome today's grave emergencies, the dominant type of the emerging society and culture is likely to be neither Capitalistic, nor Communistic, but a type sui generis which we can designate as the Integral type. This type will be intermediary between the Capitalist and the Communist orders and the ways of life. It is going to incorpoporate most of the positive values and to be free from serious defects of each type.» (P.Sorokin, «Mutual convergence(…)», 1960).
The third decade of XXI century will probably be decisive in terms of new global map of poles - small and large. Anyway, despite a seemingly happening renaissance of the classic geopolitics, we are dealing with a new world and a new, emerging world order, where social organisation , traditions, statehood characteristics and intellectual competency of the elites will have a vital role, while the ruling homo economicus will be replaced by a new product of the global capitalism - homo culture-economicus.

Civilisations, despite the stereotyped Huntington's «war of civilisations» are not at war. Capitals, elites and states are. Their weapons are historically demanded means - from armies to cultural codes and «social well-being» standards.

The human beings themselves, with their cultural ways, character and cultural identity become a base unit for planning, governance and disposal.

Homo culture-economicus. New resource and at the same time - new product of the global world.
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