From chess to poker. The new world disordered order

Author: us-russia
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From chess to poker. The new world disordered order
Published 22-01-2013, 06:50

Maria Dubovikova

Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia)

The new world order… Political scientists all over the world have been discussing this issue for twenty years, right from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unipolarity, multipolarity, plural-unipolarity, nonpolarity…which one is the best to describe the world system after the Cold war? While discussing this, political scientists have missed the moment, when even the term "order” became debatable itself.

The system of the modern world has nothing in common with the chessboard. The epoch of "chess players” has gone to the past with the end of bipolar era. Having a clear logic, limited quantity of players (two blocks), who’s relations had been setting the pitch of all the interactions and climate on the world stage – this system had all reasons to be called "an order”, even in the moment when the humanity was on the threshold of nuclear war. (The fact that, finally, the Third World War did not evolve to nothing more than a nightmare, confirms, that there was an order and real mechanisms of regulation, that didn’t let the situation degrade to hell).

When the Eastern giant and its allies collapsed, having formed so-called "vacuum of power”, the United States became the only super power on the world stage. The bipolar system became a chapter in the "History of International Relations”. Francis Fukuyama proclaimed "The end of history”(1989, 1992), the theory of democratic world was on the rise, and Huntington’s "The clash of civilizations”(1993) seemed to be out of trend and improbable. In that time, no one could imagine, that they would have twenty years of disillusionments. Many of existing contradictions were hidden and hibernated during the Cold War, and were awakened by the great "earthquake” provoked by the system downfall. However, during this short-term euphoria western countries had a clear idea of what to do with the rest of the world – to democratize. The democratic order seemed to be a universal-panacea. "Democracies don’t go to war with each other”. So, firstly, it was important to establish the democratic order in the whole Europe plus Russia, and than to bring the light of democratic values to "non democracies”, living in total rank ignorance.

Practically, the unipolar order was settled. The chess game was replaced by "Russian billiards”. Russian, because its rules, more suit for describing the state of international relations in this historic epoch. There were players (see – the western powers with the USA in the lead) trying to drive into billiard pockets (see – the democracy) all the billiard balls (see – "the non democracies” of the RoW). The discrepancy is concealed only in the fact, that players were playing on one side united by one idea. But has it existed pending all these years? Certainly not. New actors, governmental and non-governmental, legal and illegal, began to play their own games on the world stage (see – billiard table) struggling for ideas, their interests and a place in the sun. The world has become more contentious. Ethnic and religious conflicts broke out. The stable Europe, living practically in peace under the US umbrella, as safe as in God’s pocket, found out, that dangers could come not only from the outside. Bloody dissolution of Yugoslavian Republic appeared to be a distressing revelation. The other revelation was the understanding, that US umbrella is totally useless regarding the problem of the rise of international and transnational terrorism. Experts were convincing, that the majority of problems would be solved, if to bring to these "barbarians” the light of democracy. Ad interim, the unipolarity has transformed to something new: somebody called this a multipolar world order (more than two equal influential countries and their unions who’s activity forms the order and regulates relations within this framework); somebody held an opinion, that this was a plural-unipolarity . However – the idea was, that the order maintains, despite the activity of non-system and marginal actors. Order, because of two major reasons: the existence of the international law still regulating mechanisms of interstate cooperation, and the idea to concede that there is no more order at all on the world stage (see – chaos) seemed the most dangerous and terrifying . However, I agree, that during that epoch (right up to the 9/11) the order, or some kind of it has remained. Though, the billiard players appeared to be clumsy ones, partly successful, mostly – losers, because democratization had and has its limits.

9/11 became a turning point in the history of international relations and the world politics. Humanitarian interventions and preventive wars, which followed the scaring attacks of Al Qaeda, have cast doubt on the system and the order. The order? What was going on with it? Trends speak for themselves:

Trends of the period – 2001-2012:


• Transnational terrorism

• US-Russia tensions, reset and…?

• Great instability in the Greater Middle East (Afghanistan, Iraqi instability, the Arab revolts)

• Migration vs Nationalism (Breivik phenomenon)

• Economic crisis and discrepancy between countries, even in integration frameworks (European Union) on how to deal with this problem.

• Cyber space as an influential and dangerous instrument to be used by different actors with different motives (Anonymous, WikiLeaks, hackers attacks' on Estonia and Iran, information war 08.08.08)

• Asymmetrical warfare

• Nuclear proliferation (Iran, North Korea)


More over, during this epoch the real motives of the players acting on the world stage seem absolutely vague. More than ever before behind the officially proclaiming targets, motives and intentions other numerous reasons are noticeable, staying vague and not fully understandable. Leaders have to act according to their own intuition, special services (very often inefficient) and in terms of national interests, not fully understanding maneuvers of others actors, just guessing.

Under the order everything is controlled by the system of adequate mechanisms and common sense and reason are the universal regulators. Nowadays we don't have any efficient instruments and frameworks to regulate: UN, G8, G20, even NATO are powerless to bring any logic to what is going on. The US leadership is debatable. Enhancing Russia is just a shadow of the USSR and it can aspire only to a title of great power. And if it even regained the power of the USSR, the world community would be dropped again to the bipolar confrontation in the world system, that has already become more complex, than it was during the Cold War. China, caring on the world economic expansion, doesn’t seek for world political leadership or even influence (despite its place and role in the UN SC) preferring the modest role of a regional leader and power, still complying with the covenant of Den Xiaoping. Brazil and India also have no influence to regulate the existing misbalance. Non-government actors, mezzanine leaders, marginal actors, hackers, being conscious of the feebleness of the states and great powers to battle with them, feel free to choose methods for their combat in their bellum contra omens. Non-polar world order (R. Haas, 2007) could be the name of the contemporary system, if only all the actors respected each other and existing international law, without it – its just a disorder – total non-polar disorder. Sad to realize the truth of words once sad by Abba Eban: "International law – a right that is not malicious perform, and the righteous are not forced to perform” so actual for the modern situation. However, there is a set of rules which prevents actors from climbing down towards the total chaos, with combination of bluffing, fight for personal interests, economic gain, glory, without clear reason… Poker-style international relations. Cards (see – the reasons and intentions of global players and their instruments), players (see – traditional and non-traditional actors), stakes (see – the investments, interventions’ costs and etc). In poker players don’t know the cards of each other (see – the difference between what is declared and what is really desired), they are prompted by excitement; intuition plays a major role, not the reason. And the goal – to outplay the others and to break the bank (see – the power, influence on the world stage, and certainly – profit for the economy).

To what will this poker game lead the international community ? Modern word on different levels faces a great number of problems and challenges. Unless this irrational interaction is stopped, the international community will appear totally paralyzed, and marginal actors will bring to naught all the achievements of the development. And moreover, the world casino is not the best way to organize the cooperation of the world stage actors, when some players have nuclear bombs in their pockets. Lets play golf, guys…it’s more peaceful.

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