How Will the Multipolar World Affect the US?


The international system and the world order are going through deep turmoil today

There is full agreement in science that the modern international order and the modern system of international relations developed after the end of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the conclusion of the Westphalia Treaty (1648).

However, there is still no generally accepted wording of "international system" and "system of international relations" on the one hand, and "international order" and "world order" on the other. Hence the widespread delusion that we are now witnessing the transformation of the system of international relations, while the world order is changing in the first place. The main question is: What does the world community expect as a result of this transformation?

International system and system of international relations

These concepts are used very often in international relations. One of the founders of the historical and sociological approach to the study of international relations Raymond Aaron wrote: "I call the international system a set of political entities that maintain constant relations and can be involved in a large-scale war... I didn't immediately decide to use the term ‘system’ to refer to a whole, the internal unity of which is the rivalry of its components... The political system is defined by the organization, interrelations of components, interaction of elements, mechanisms of management."

The idea of sequence in international relations arises from the fact that states seek to exist and recognize the legitimacy of each other's interests in order to guarantee the stability of international relations. The reasons for the consistency is in the presence of a set of sustainable interests of actors, legal regulation of international relations, the need for stability, and predictability of long-term relations between states.

There are four types of structural organization of the international system: the Westphalian system (1648-1789) as a system of classical European balance, the Vienna system (1814-1914) -- the system of European concert, the Versailles-Washington system (1919-1939) with the main conquest -- the League of Nations and The Yalta-Potsdam system (1945-1991), the crown of which is the creation of the United Nations.

Thus, the system of international relations can be characterized as the state of the international system at a particular stage of social development.

International order and world order

There is a significant semantic difference between these concepts. The international order is a set of rules and norms of political, economic, military-political, legal and other relations in a certain historical period of time. The world order is a concept that characterizes the content of relations between the dominant subjects of international relations, that is, the great powers.

The world order, therefore, has no universal character in the modern world; in scope it's narrower and higher than the international order. Although, perhaps, the world order expresses a promising trend of development, which is characterized by the expansion of the world order on a global scale.

There are three types of world order: unipolar, bipolar and multipolar. The unipolar world order presupposes the domination of a single super-power that is ahead of all other states by its combined power. The bipolar world order is characterized by the domination of the two most powerful states. The bipolar world order is transformed into a multipolar one when economic and military power comparable to the power of the two states is reached by other powers. In an equilibrium system, several large states maintain roughly the same influence on the course of the events, restricting each other's excessive claims.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, the world was multipolar, but by the middle of the century, two World Wars and many smaller conflicts had created a bipolar model. With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, bipolarity was replaced by unipolarity -- the United States of America began to play a major role.

Modern international relations are characterized by complexity, turbulence, and unpredictability. In connection with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the turn of the century concepts were born that prove the viability of the Westphalian system of international relations. Recall that the Westphalian system and the world order established by it demanded the existence of independent countries that don’t interfere in each other's internal affairs. In his 2014 book World order, Henry Kissinger declared that the basic principles of the Westphalian formation, including non-interference in internal affairs, are immoral and outdated. The guidelines for the creation of the current world order (PaxAmericana, PA) are clearly reflected in the U.S. National military strategy (NAF) of 2015, taking into account the fact that Bush, Obama, and Trump allegedly ended PA.

Transformation signs

Recent facts and events show that the United States cannot cope with the role of being the only pole in the current world order. Today, the United States and its allies are unable to balance forces in the Middle East -- neither with their troops nor with the support of groups that are trying to seize power. Therefore, the troops' withdrawal is perhaps one of the most reliable solutions as an example of the US. Moreover, the most acute problems are on a global scale between the major powers of China, Russia, and the United States.

The old world order is gone forever. The American elite lacks a strategic vision of prospects, real altruism, attention to other people's opinions, and actions based on morality and faith.

As a result, today the world has entered a period of uncertainty and increased risks, exacerbated by the inability of the United States and its closest allies to solve the global problems of our time. Speaking over the role of the United States in the modern world, the famous British philosopher and sociologist Sigmund Bauman said: "No one can consider themselves truly indispensable. Even the most privileged status can be temporary and suddenly change."

We're all part of a single historical and evolutionary process in which the development of some countries should not be sacrificed for the financial and economic benefits of others. But the prospect of living and acting on other people's standards and patterns that lead to the loss of national identity remains. The US used to set the rules and change them depending on the situation, seeing its mission to be at the top of the management pyramid. Therefore, inequality in income, consumption and living standards is only growing in others countries as well as in the same US which doesn't notice their own problems because of the interference in other countries' lives, and this is fraught with the fragility of economies, aggressive policies, instability in the regions and conflicts.


Today more than ever, Henry Kissinger’s words about the vulnerability of the almighty country and the problems of a new order in which America will not be able to dominate the world are more relevant than ever: "It should not endanger its own greatness, feeding illusions over the limits of its capabilities. World leadership is an integral part of America's power and it moral values, but it doesn't include the privilege of pretending that America is gracious to other Nations by joining them, or has the unlimited ability to impose its will on them, depriving them of their favor."

At first glance, the current world may seem multipolar. The centers of power are the European Union, India, China, Russia, the United States and Japan – home to just over half of the world's population. They account for 75% of the world's GDP and 80% of global defense spending. But externals can be deceiving. The world today is radically different from the world of the classic era of multipolarity; there are many more centers of power and many of them are not nation-states.

In this regard, the United States is and will continue to be the largest concentration of global influence. But their primacy is contested, especially in the areas of the effectiveness of the armed forces and diplomacy. Impressive figures in the military budget don't always indicate military power. Although here it should be noted that the current US is not successful in the military field, and the costs due to many factors have been cut by almost half. In a multipolarity era, power and influence are less and less interconnected. Ultimately, the country that was able to influence North Korea on its nuclear program turned out to be China. Washington's pressure on Tehran has been strengthened thanks to the support of several Western European countries and weakened due to the reluctance of China to impose sanctions against Iran. Pakistan has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to ignore the insistence of the United States; the same can be said of Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iran, and North Korea. A similar trend is observed in the fields of culture and information.

Thus, the era of unipolarity is over. In spite of the US, the world iscommitted to a stable multi-polar state. This was agreed by the head of the Strategic Command of the US armed forces John Hayden, saying: "Over the past decade, the world has undergone a transformation and has become multipolar, but Washington should in any case seek military superiority over other countries... We have to look at (nuclear) deterrence through a new lens. We're no longer defined by the bipolar world of the two superpowers, which has simplified our approach to deterrence. The US challenges many adversaries as they expand their capabilities. To maintain military superiority in this multipolar world, we must think, maneuver, partner and innovate better than our opponents."

He is echoed by the U.S. Deputy Defense Minister John Rood, who at the Senate hearings declared: "Russia and China intend to change the world order and the established territorial borders, so these two States represent an increasing threat to the security of the US and its allies."


In the current circumstances, attempts to give new breath to the global international system of stability based on the use of traditional means of world politics is the leadership of the great powers, using their advantages in soft or hard power. As recent events show, the old parameters of power and influence still retain their importance in the modern world. We are not talking about a unipolar world, but a classic multipolar world with a multi-level, multi-vector, and mobile international and bilateral system, where various problems are brought to the fore, especially in the political sphere, which require the use of multilateral diplomacy and the creation of a new network of international institutions.

Where the world community is headed

Former Barack Obama adviser, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas introduces the concept of a world without states or multipolar world in his book of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order. "The World government system should be created and independence needed abolishing... Nations must be prepared to surrender independence to world structures... This is already happening in the trade sector,” he says. "And then the ‘unipolarity moment’ in US politics will be ended. International relations in the 21st century will determine the situation of polarity. The power would be blurred rather than concentrated, and the importance of nation States would diminish as non-state actors strengthened. But it doesn't threaten the United States. During the transition period, Washington is still able to hold the course for a safer world in its hands."


In the 21st century, the main feature of international relations will be the non-polarity of not one, two or even several states, but dozens of actors capable of having a different impact on the state of affairs in the world. The new situation is fundamentally different from what it was in the past, fundamentally changing the power balance.

But the advent of non-polarity raises a number of important questions. How does it differ from other forms of world order? How and why did it arise? What are the possible consequences of its functioning?

Unlike multipolarity, which implies several distinct poles or centers of power, the non-polar system is characterized by the presence of numerous centers with significant power.

A multipolar world order can be based on cooperation, even become a concert of powers, when several large states work together to create rules of the game and develop measures to influence those who violate them (a vivid example is the Vienna System of international relations). A multipolar world can also be more competitive and based on a balance of power or fraught with the threat of conflict when that balance is disturbed.

The polar world today is not simply the result of the rise of other states and organizations or the failures and unwise steps of the United States. Polarity is an inevitable consequence of globalization. It has increased the volume, speed and importance of cross-border flows-from drugs, e-mail, greenhouse gases, industrial goods and people to television and radio signals, viruses (virtual and real) and weapons.

Globalization reinforces the multipolar mess that will have mostly negative consequences for most countries. When so many actors are powerful and trying to exert influence, it's more difficult to organize collective action and to get international organizations to work together. The failure to reach an agreement on the establishment of the TRANS-Pacific partnership is a clear confirmation of this.

However, despite the fact that the onset of the polarity era is inevitable, this system’s nature is not predetermined. To paraphrase the words of international relations theorist Hedley Bull, global politics anywhere in the world is a mixture of anarchy and organization. Moreover, anarchy is the leading force in the development of international relations. Anarchy is interpreted as the absence of a world government, a single supreme power in states’ interaction. The question is what the ratio of these components is and what the developmental trend is. Systems consisting of a large number of actors tend to be more random and disorderly in the absence of external intervention.


A multipolar system complicates diplomatic activity. It's not just that there're more actors in the polar world. It lacks the predictable fixed structures and systems of relations that characterize unipolar, bipolar and multipolar structures. Unions largely lose their meaning, because they require a foreseeable risk, clear predictions and commitments. Relations will be more selective and based on the specific situation. It will become more difficult to identify other countries either as allies or as opponents on some issues. In the foreground, there will be consultation and coalition building and diplomacy, which, where possible, promote collaboration and protect from the consequences of inevitable differences.

The multipolar system will be difficult and dangerous. But promoting greater global integration will help to achieve stability. The creation of a central group of governments and other actors committed to multilateralism would be a significant step forward. Let's call it consistent polarity. Such a model would not do away with polarity but would help to manage it and increase the chances that the international system wouldn't degrade or disintegrate.

Waiting for turbulence

International relations are undergoing a powerful transformation in the 21st century that changes the nature, structure and essence of the international order. The international relations structure has been enriched by new actors challenging the authority and influence of traditional states and intergovernmental organizations. States that have sought to realize their interests as much as possible on the basis of the principle of sovereignty are now seeking to enter the world-economy and peace-politics.

The development of civilization brings new and increasingly complex challenges to the agenda. To what extent they can be resolved, what will be the price of removing contradictions, it is difficult to say now, but it is clear that the formation of a new model of international relations will be very painful and costly. At the same time, the experience gained so far in dealing with a wide variety of equally complex problems allows us to hope that, in the end, the desire to create a favorable external environment for the development of states, the growth of their interdependence will outweigh all the negative factors and lead to the formation of a more perfect model of international relations in comparison with previous ones.

The entire world order will have to go through an era of turbulence – a complex and unstable time, significantly different from the realities of the 20th century. But most importantly, the people of America will have to endure great economic and social hardships in the near future. It's time to prepare for world chaos and it's not excluded for war.

Source: USA Really