Sunday, August 10, 2008

Comment: Russia and the "Unipolar" World

When the Soviet Union disbanded, the United States began propagating the view of a "unipolar" world dominated by a single superpower, the United States.

This was always a rather misleading view, and was inconsistent with the other American concept of the "clash of civilizations."

But even with regard to the old Soviet power, the Soviet bear was replaced just below the surface by the Russian bear. There have always been strongly nationalist elements in Russia and their power has grown as the U.S. and NATO have crept up on Russian borders. Below the surface of unipolarity, Russia still had enough nukes for "mutually assured destruction."

Russian media lately has been attacking the idea of a unipolar world suggesting that a bipolar or multipolar environment would better serve the poor and powerless nations of the world. Russia's ally in the Americas, Hugo Chavez, said in July that the nations should work toward “establishing a world based on a multipolar order allowing the full right of peoples to freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty.”

Russia's ideas of polycentrism are combined with Slavic nationalism near its borders especially in the areas of the old state of Yugoslavia, and toward the South, in the nation of Georgia, now under attack by Russian troops.

In recent years, Russia has revived its relationship with China, as both nations see the need to strategically counter the U.S. quest for hegemony. In the Middle East, both China and Russia have courted Iran as a counterbalance to the Western-aligned Gulf oil states.

In Latin America, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have moved strongly toward the Cuban orbit, and even America's neighbor Mexico came close to taking a more moderate stand in this direction in the last presidential election.

However, it is in Africa where both China and Russia have had some of their greatest success in preaching the virtues of multipolar world. Here dire poverty, including famine, still exists in ways that should have been eradicated by the "modern world" decades ago.

The current fighting in Georgia is merely a symptom of growing strategic tension over the implementation of the unipolar concept by the U.S. and it allies. NATO's intention of establishing a "missile shield" along Russia's western frontiers threatens to start a new Cold War.

Russia has already said it might respond by placing its own missile shield and strategic bombers in Belarus. It also is apparently preparing to establish a military presence in Cuba. Russians have resumed bomber and patrol craft flights near Alaska, a Soviet practice they had retired long ago.

While most of the world has been focused more on the tensions and fighting between the West and radical Islam, these old strategic concerns have been simmering below the surface and are beginning to boil over again on the world stage.

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