Five hundred years of Western hegemony is ending, while the global majority’s aspiration for a world order based on multipolarity and sovereign equality is rising. This incisive book addresses the demise of liberal hegemony, though pointing out that a multipolar Westphalian world order has not yet taken shape, leaving the world in a period of interregnum. A legal vacuum has emerged, in which the conflicting sides are competing to define the future order.
NATO expansionism was an important component of liberal hegemony as it was intended to cement the collective hegemony of the West as the foundation for a liberal democracies-imposed peace. Instead, it dismantled the pan-European security architecture and set Europe on the path to war without the possibility of a course correction. Ukraine as a divided country in a divided Europe has been a crucial pawn in the great power competition between NATO and Russia for the past three decades.
The war in Ukraine is a symptom of the collapsing world order. The war revealed the dysfunction of liberal hegemony in terms of both power and legitimacy, and it sparked a proxy war by the West against Russia instead of ensuring peace, the source of its legitimacy.
The proxy war, unprecedented sanctions, and efforts to isolate Russia in the wider world contributed to the demise of liberal hegemony. Much of the world responded to the war by intensifying their transition to a Eurasian world order that rejects hegemony and liberal universalism. The economic architecture is being reorganized as the world diversifies away from excessive reliance on Western technologies, industries, transportation corridors, banks, payment systems, insurance systems, and currencies. Universalism based on Western values is replaced by civiliational distinctiveness, sovereign inequality is swapped with sovereign equality, imposition is replaced by negotiation, and the rules-based international order is discarded in favor of international law. A Westphalian world order is reasserting itself, although with Eurasian characteristics.
The West’s defeat of Russia would restore the unipolar world order while a Russian victory would cement a multipolar one. The international system is now at its most dangerous as the prospect for compromise is absent, meaning the winner will take all. Both NATO under US direction and Russia are therefore prepared to take great risks and escalate, making nuclear annihilation an increasingly likely prospect.