Following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and its institutions like the Warsaw Pact, three decades ago, it was widely believed that the multipolarity had ended.
Also, several theories emerged that confirmed the end of that era of human history. Among these was the famous theory of Francis Fukuyama, who heralded end of history in his book “The End of History and the Last Man” (Published 1992).
Samuel Huntington indicated the turning of conflict into a clash of civilisations, which mainly meant the conflict between the Islamic and the Western civilisation. His theory was reinforced by the emergence of terrorist organisations such as al Qaeda, Daesh, Hezbollah and other Islamist political organisations.
Fast forward to 2022: As the Russia-Ukraine conflict unfolds, it seems that all these theories and conclusions were hasty and without well-established objective grounds. These theories are no longer valid as evidenced from Fukuyama’s timid recognition of scepticism about his previous theory, in an article after the Russian attack of Ukraine.
Nowadays the world is facing serious but radical developments that may lead to several changes. The centres of power may be rearranged as a result of the weakness and collapse of traditional powers and the emergence of new ones enjoying economic, military and technological advantages that qualify them to play a central role in the upcoming conflicts.
This may very well contribute to returning the world to a multipolar world order, ending more than three decades of unipolar world, which helped in the creation of more hotbeds of tension, contrary to the belief that the unipolar order would contribute to international stability and security.
Important shift in international relations
This important shift in international relations requires countries to stand firm to determine their position and reshape their alliances based on their own national interests. Some countries have already embarked on an approach to determine the course of their future policies. Many Arab countries, for instance, were impacted by the collapse of the bipolar order, under which they had gained their political independence.
Under the umbrella of the bipolar order, the Aswan High Dam, which is invaluable to Egypt until today, was built. Aware that the World Bank would refused to finance the construction of the dam, the alternative was ready — thanks to a multipolar world.
Had it not been for the unipolarity in the past 30 years, Iraq would not have been invaded and destroyed, and the “Arab destruction” or the so-called Arab spring called would not have occurred, resulting in the destruction of five Arab countries that once enjoyed security and stability and its peoples used to enjoy acceptable living standards in general.
The geopolitical situation today prompts us to re-evaluate our policies. A multipolar world will in all likelihood be quite different from the pluralism that followed the Second World War when two superpowers dominated.
A new world order
There is a chance that a post-Ukraine conflict world will have more than two superpowers. Along with the declining United States, whose economy depends on debts that have exceeded 100 per cent of its GDP, Russia is a superpower with its vast natural resources. Another superpower is China with its enormous economic weight, which is expected to surpass the US economy in a few years, as the world’s largest economy. This is in addition to the big countries that are rising sharply.
This clearly signifies that the world could be witness to dramatic geopolitical changes in the near future, as there will be a new alignment of power centres and global alliances. This requires nations to draw up new policies to take advantage of these radical transformations and harness them for their own interests.
The GCC nations possess economic and military capabilities as well as significant political influence that is different from the past. Their strong economic, military and economic status gives them global weightage and bigger role, which enables them to take initiative and create a balance in their international relations.
All of this translates into the fact that nations can afford to go with neutrality and self-capabilities to defend their national interests. They can also establish their relations with various powers on the grounds of parity and mutual interests.
GCC nations have strong cards — an important source of energy, strong economies, active markets and military capabilities. Their distinctive geographical location on the intersection of international trade routes is an added advantage.
We may well be witness to a decline of the unipolar world order and the world reshaping — a reality that reflects a new world order for the 21st century.
Mohammad Al Asoomi is a specialist in Gulf economic affairs