Vladimir Putin gave a memorable speech ten years ago. That speech was very important for the Russia’s foreign policy.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s speech in Munich, which is now considered to have been a turning point in Russia’s foreign policy. Meanwhile, it is also the rarest case in global politics of a comprehensive forecast which came true.
The full speech still deserves attention. Let us recall its main postulates.
1. The unipolar world was not seen through. No matter how this term is dressed up, it ultimately means only one thing in practice: one center of power, one center of force, one center of decision-making. This is a world with one master, one sovereign. At the end of the day, it is destructive not only for those who fall within this system, but for the sovereign itself, because this system destroys it from within.
2. Everything that is happening in the world is the consequence of attempts to enforce the concept of a unipolar world. And what is the result? Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not solved a single problem. Moreover, they have generated new human tragedies and hotbeds of tension.
3. The dominance of force inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Fundamentally new threats such as terrorism have appeared which were known earlier, but have now acquired a global character.
4. We have reached a decisive moment in which we must seriously think over the entire architecture of global security. We must start by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all subjects of international relations.
5. The international landscape is quickly changing due to the dynamic development of a number of states and regions. The total GDP of India and China in terms of purchasing power parity is already larger than that of the United States of America (and this was back in 2007, let us remember). The similarly calculated GDP of such BRICS countries as Brazil, Russia, India, and China surpasses the cumulative GDP of the European Union. According to expert assessments, this gap will only increase in the foreseeable future.
6. The UN Charter alone can be the only mechanism for deciding on the use of military force as a last resort. The UN should not be confused with NATO or the EU. Otherwise, the situation could come to a standstill and only multiply a number of formidable mistakes.
7. On the one hand, financial resources are indeed allocated for programs assisting the poorest countries, but this is often for the prerogative of the corporations of the donor countries themselves. Thus, on the other hand, the poorer countries’ economic backwardness is preserved. The ensuing social tension in such depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, and fuels terrorism and local conflicts. If this all happens in, for example, the Middle East – on top of already heightened perceptions of the external world as unjust – then the risk of global destabilization arises.
Based on this description of the world and its future, the President of Russia told the international community: our country will pursue an independent foreign policy, and it would like to deal with just as independent partners.
Briefly reviewing the Munich speech’s postulates, we can now state 10 years later:
Yes, the unipolar world was not realized. The country which believed itself to be the overlord and master was also one of the first to feel that all of this was destroying it from within, and this country has now announced its intention to reset the balance by man-handling the partners already glued to it. And now it is building a wall on its southern border, imposing protectionist tariffs on imports, and changing immigration policy from “open doors for all” to “open doors for persecuted Christians.”
Yes, none of these hotbeds of tension have been eliminated. Moreover, new ones have emerged. Several other countries have been ruined and semi-destroyed.
Yes, terrorism has transformed into a global force and created its own global quasi-state ruling territories on two continents. Its emissaries shoot, blow up, and run over with trucks once carefree Europeans in their own coastal cities and Christmas markets.
Yes, the GDP of the BRICS countries, despite the crisis in Russia, Brazil, and the “Chinese slowdown,” is almost on par with the GDP of the Big 7. Given the differences in growth rates, it will surely pass such.
The gap between poor and rich countries has widened just as the gap between rich and poor people has increased.
In the end, the world is stuck at the same dead end that the Russian president warned about – because the Munich speech was, frankly speaking, not listened to by those to whom it was addressed.
Or, rather, they heard it, but only through the filter of the unipolar ideology against whose devastating effects Putin warned. The only thing that the rulers of the only pole cared to understand was that one of the countries subject to liberal democratization was breaking away and declaring some kind of independent policy. They reacted accordingly: instructors and arms flowed into Georgia, and the flow of “cookies” to Ukraine was intensified. This led to well-known results.
Next came the Arab and other “springs” in Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Then came the great refugee invasion of Europe. Then came Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Orlando, and San Bernardino. Then came the collapse of Ukraine and Brexit. Now we have the “strange presidency” of the current American leader who for already a month has torpedoed the American elite itself on all fronts.
In other words, precisely what the Russian leader warned about has come true. Unfortunately, precisely what he warned to not allow, has happened.
The most enlightening (and sad) part is that back then, 10 years ago, Putin offered a prescription for all of this. He proposed abandoning the unipolar ideology in favor of “searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all subjects of international relations.”
And only now, with wild screeching, the relapse of “liberal messianism,” and difficulty in finding words and expressions, are Western leaders beginning to realize the inevitability of multipolarity.
It cannot be said that they are happy, since the independence that their Russian counterpart called for ten years ago is a heavy burden for most of them. Despite a whole quarter century of the “end of history and global Fukuyama,” the majority of leaders of the free world are simply unaccustomed to freedom and the responsibility inevitably accompanying it.
And yet they are so reluctant to recognize the reality of the Russian president’s predictions because this awareness would lead to another recognition, namely, that the problems tied to the dismantling of the unfinished “global empire” are just beginning.
The majority of these problems still lie ahead.