Consideration of changing nature of world order since 2000

At the beginning of the new millennium, there was optimism that a ‘new world order' would emerge to replace the tension and suspicion of the Cold War era. There was even some suggestion that history had come to an end and the world would no longer be divided by ideological struggle. However, the new millennium is proving to be as prone to war as the last one.

Can the UN adapt to the new world order?

The UN was hampered through much of its history by the divisions of the Cold War but the post-Cold War world has not been much different. The behaviour of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, particularly the USA and Russia’s use of the veto, demonstrates how it is oſten difficult to reach an agreement because states seek to protect their national interests. Nationalism has proved to be as divisive as ideology and in many ways, the new century looks more like the 19th than the 20th century. National self-interest means that peacekeeping has a mixed record and is oſten hampered by disagreements between the permanent members and the need to gain the permission of sovereign states before peacekeeping missions can be deployed to them. This also means that reform of the UN, in particular the much-criticised Security Council, has proved impossible.

In 2000 there seemed some reason to hope that the USA and Russia might form a partnership. While,Russia transformed into a capitalist economy, this was not followed by what the West would recognise as a liberal democracy. There are elections in which a range of parties and candidates may stand, but there is increased ballot rigging in presidential elections, suppression of independent media, assassination of political rivals to Putin, and by the time of the invasion of Ukraine Russia has become an authoritarian dictatorship.

Putin did declare support for the ‘war on terror’ in 2001 but relations with the USA deteriorated as NATO expanded to incorporate the former Warsaw Pact countries. Russia has been further offended by Western intervention in Kosovo on behalf of the ethnic Albanians against the Serbian government, traditional allies of Russia, and the willingness to support recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign independent state. During this time, Russian nationalism has been growing as a force in Russian politics. United Russia, a right-of-center party that supports Vladimir Putin and encourages pride in the motherland and her achievements, dominates electoral politics. The party won nearly half of all votes in the 2011 Duma elections; the next nearest rivals, the Communist Party, gained only 20 per cent. Under Putin, there has been resurgence of Russian power and influence in the world, driven, in part, by rising economic prosperity. Russia is now an energy superpower, supplying the highest proportion of oil and gas of any country. Putin has become more assertive in pressing Russia’s interests, by annexing Crimea and finally invading Ukraine as well as military interventions in Syria, Moldova and Georgia.

Hopes for a more peaceful world post-2000 have been dashed. The communist systems in states such as Yugoslavia and Chechnya had suppressed national and ethnic differences for many years and the fall of communism led to a power vacuum, which was followed by civil war. The majority groups in these states desperately tried to cling to power, resorting to ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and genocide to maintain their dominance. The rise of the Islamic State followed the ‘war on terror’ and its promotion of Western democracy, which unleashed destabilising forces. The Arab Spring started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread across North Africa and the Middle East, culminating in revolutions in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, civil uprisings in Egypt and Bahrain, and pro-democracy demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and even Saudi Arabia. The Syrian conflict has raged since 2011, with no immediate hope of a peaceful resolution. Arguably, the world is in a state of disorder, much like the 19th Century making the Cold War appear to be an exceptional period of peace and stability.

After the end of the Cold War the USA was the world’s pre-eminent power but in the new millenium, its economic dominance is being challenged not only by China, but also by the rise of other emerging powers, such as Brazil, India, Russia and, the EU, which is now the largest single market in the world. China has become the world’s greatest neocolonial power, investing massively in Africa and South America — regions that were traditionally within the USA’s economic zone of influence. Is China a Super Power? The fact, too, that China controls so much of the USA’s debt. China has steadily accumulated U.S. Treasury securities over the last few decades. As of October 2021, China owns $1.065 trillion, or about 3.68%, of the $28.9 trillion U.S. national debt, which is more than any other foreign country except Japan. While the presumed pre-eminence of American-style free-market liberalism is increasingly being challenged by China's state-orientated capitalism, which weathered the 2008 financial crisis better than the USA. The establishment in 2015 of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a rival to the World Bank in influencing the developing world provides a further example of the way in which economic power is moving eastwards. In the global economy the balance of power has shifted considerably. The credit crunch and the 2008 financial crisis inflicted a major blow upon its international standing, and the US cannot dominate an international organisation comparable to say NATO. It must also negotiate on a bilateral basis with a number of emerging economies and seek some form of accommodation (particularly with the Chinese government)

The election of Donald Trump has demonstrated extraordinary class and racial divisions within the USA, which can be seen to contrast with the burgeoning nationalist self-confidence of Putin’s Russia, Recep Erdogan’s Turkey and Xi Jinping’s China. However recent developments such as China's property debt crisis, Turkey's 70% inflation, and Russia's disastrous invasion of Ukraine have exposed serious weaknesses in these states.

Case Study America's War in Iraq

In terms of soft power, the United States still has an international reach. It provides a considerable amount of international aid in various regions and has the most diplomatic missions of any country in the world. Yet having said this, quantitative measures do not in themselves mean that the world order is necessarily dominated by the US. The way in which global news networks such as Al Jazeera and RT (formerly Russia Today) increasingly challenge the USA’s traditional dominance of global news has also fostered this greater sense of empowerment among emerging powers.

Even with its considerable military arsenal, the United States has not always managed to translate hard power into a satisfactory outcome. In 2001, the US launched the Orwellian-sounding ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ when it dispatched armed forces to invade the failed state of Afghanistan. Without a military presence from the US, it seems inconceivable that a coalition of over forty countries would have defeated the Taliban. In 2021 Afghanistan was once again under the control of the Taliban after the USA's chaotic withdrawal.

Widespread coverage of human rights abuses, such as waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay and the shooting of black Americans by the police has also eroded the USA’s global cultural influence. President Trump has even admitted that the USA is no better than any other country in terms of human rights violations. This has therefore undermined the USA’s traditional claim of moral exclusivity, indicating that the USA may now see itself more on a par with other powers.

A Return to the past?

The hopes for a more peaceful world in the new Millennium have not been realised. The communist systems had suppressed national and ethnic differences which reappeared in the former Yugoslavia. The fall of communism led to a return of ethnic disputes and violence. The majority groups in these states- particularly Serbia, desperately tried to cling to power, resorting to ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide to maintain their dominance. The USA, by its ‘war on terror and its promotion of Western democracy, also unleashed destabilising forces in Iraq which led to the rise of the Islamic State. The Arab Spring started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread across North Africa and the Middle East, culminating in revolutions in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, civil uprisings in Egypt and Bahrain, and pro-democracy demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and even Saudi Arabia. Although its democratic aspirations largely failed. The Syrian conflict has raged since 2011, with no immediate hope of a peaceful resolution. The regional and religious rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran has fuelled a long war in Yemen. In 2012 Russia annexed Crimea and sponsored a war in Eastern Ukraine which was followed by a full invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Arguably, the world is in a state of disorder, much like the pre-war era, making the Cold War appear to be an exceptional period of peace and stability.