The New Balance of Power in the World: What the G7 Summit and the Controversy Over Russia Showed

In the West it is starting to be understood that the world is changing, American hegemony fades away, and it is necessary to negotiate with Russia, said the president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostislav Ishchenko.

Washington is considering venues for a G7 summit in 2020 – Donald Trump will be the host.

At this year’s summit, the US President put forward a proposal to return to the G8 format, but the views of his colleagues differed. At the same time, Moscow not only did not show an interest in such a “tempting” proposal, but explicitly stated that actually it was not very desirable, but if an attempt to convince is made, if something interesting is offered, then the topic can be discussed. The Kremlin made it clear that it is possible to restore the format, but Russia must be persuaded by offering it something tempting.

It is sure that in Eastern Europe and especially in the post-Soviet space, most, if not all politicians did not understand what was happening. Big white people invite these Russian savages with them to the same table, and they put on airs. The multi-voiced chorus “Exchange us” didn’t sound only because they knew that they will not be taken for an exchange. But Ukraine still managed to teach the “7” about life and explain who it does and doesn’t have the right to invite to cooperate.

I think that in the West the situation is perceived more adequately. At least the positions of the Italians, French, Germans, Japanese, and the Trump administration show that in these Western capitals (perhaps to varying degrees) they have realised that the world is changing, American hegemony is fading away, and it is necessary to negotiate with Russia (in any format).

This position is shared by most politicians in Eastern Europe and near abroad, as well as representatives of the Russian pro-West opposition.

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All these people do not sincerely understand or believe that such a “generous” offer can be voluntarily refused. They are looking for hidden meaning in the Russian position. Some argue that Moscow cannot resolve this issue on its own, being bound by an alliance with China, others argue that the Russian leadership simply cannot instantly change the course of a launched propaganda machine and therefore is forced to play for time, before throwing itself into the embrace of the West. They believe it because it’s what they would do.

But let us turn to the facts and answer two questions:

  • Was it necessary for Russia to strive for the “format of eight” in the 1990’s?
  • How relevant is this format now?

In the 90’s it was justified

The first question is answered in the negative by many today, rightly pointing out that Moscow has received nothing material from membership. It was only given moral teaching, looking at her like Widow Douglas in Huckleberry Finn: a boy with a good heart, but so wild and asocial that he had to be treated with a firm hand and raised harshly (for his own good, of course). Nevertheless, I would venture to say that in the specific circumstances of the 1990’s, membership in the G8 (even in the original “7+1” format) was a serious diplomatic victory for Russia, although no material benefits were indeed realised.

It must be remembered that then the West viewed Russia as a country that lost the Cold War. At the same time, the issue of reforming the system of international relations (including the United Nations) was discussed on the basis of the new realities that required the institutionalisation of the West’s victory. There was nothing new or unnatural about it. Every serious global conflict culminated in a revision of the system of international relations. After World War I, the Versailles system and the League of Nations were established. After World War II, they were replaced by the Yalta-Potsdam system and the United Nations.

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The question of reforming the United Nations and other international structures, due to the fact that the Yalta-Potsdam reality is long gone, is still standing. But in the 1990’s international mechanisms were going to be reformed without Russia and contrary to Russian interests. In the West, there were circles that considered it necessary to consolidate Russia’s status as a country defeated in the global confrontation.

Let me remind you that after World War II, the UN was originally created without Germany and Japan. The permanent members of the UN Security Council (with veto power) include only five winning countries. And when the UN charter was written and the organisation was created, no one knew that these five states would become the leading nuclear countries. So nuclear power was attached to their status as permanent members of the Security Council, not the status to the nuclear power.

The real political status of the country in the system of international relations has a clear but significant (often determining) influence on its diplomatic and military position, and military-political power not only supports the statements of diplomats, but also allows to effectively defend its financial and economic interests.

Russia managed to avoid the division of the post-Soviet world into winners and losers, with all the associated unpleasant consequences. It was recognised as equal, accepted into the club of the world’s leading powers, invited to discuss the fate of the world, and to develop global political and economic solutions. More was not required then, and it was impossible to achieve.

Proposed “ten” format

Today, circumstances have changed. In fact, the whole world is represented in the G20, the forum of the twenty most developed countries that really control the world economy. The Seven has not controlled it for a long time, and in military-political terms is also unable to dictate its will to the world.

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As one of the leaders of the G20, Russia does not really have much need for the G8 format.

It finds itself there alone in the face of seven of its geopolitical opponents. At the same time, Moscow has made it clear that it currently considers the “ten” format to be the most productive (it is the “seven”, but expanded in favour of Russia, India, and China).

Such a format includes countries that actually control more than 60% of the global economy, about the same percentage of the world’s population, and are absolutely superior to the rest of the world in terms of military power. Moreover, the “ten” format includes both countries that were beneficiaries of the old (outgoing) political-economic system and new leaders. Finally, the pan-Eurasian political-economic system created by Russia and China cannot be complete without the participation of the European Union, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region requires the settlement of the Sino-Japanese-Russian-American tangle of contradictions.

However, the Kremlin did not definitively refuse to participate in the G8 format. It only pointed to its secondary nature and the need to interest Russia in anything other than a simple presence.

Since the West is not yet ready for the “ten” format, one way to interest Russia may be to invite Moscow to informally represent in the “eight” the interests of states that have not yet entered into the “ten”. Other proposals that take reality into account are possible. In fact, Russia insists on raising its status in the system of international relations based on the changed balance of forces.

At the same time, it will be satisfied with both special status in the G8 and with the preservation of the status quo.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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