Multiple generations of Americans, millennials and Gen Z alike, have come of political age in the unipolar moment. The various manifestations of the unipolar moment, such as unparalleled American naval might to secure free trade on the high seas, unrivaled American dominance in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the incessant urge to militarily intervene in faraway lands on moralistic or humanitarian grounds, became de rigueur. Talk of "American exceptionalism," though typically rooted in the constitutionalism and political theory of the American Founding, also began to take on a decidedly jingoistic hue. Though satire, the 2004 film Team America: World Police still captured the essence of the unipolar era's zenith.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Signifies the End of an Era of Unipolar American Power.
Russia had drawn a line in the sand and, once violated, defied Washington by acting to defend its interests. A lot of countries support Russia, and Washington is powerless to stop it.
We are seeing some developments emerge very quickly which may tell us where all of this is heading:
1. In response to the U.S.’s extreme sanctions on Russia, including its removal of the Russian Central Bank from the SWIFT banking system, Russia and China have quickly pivoted to transferring money through other means and to trading on the Chinese Yuan. And now, the U.S.’s long-time ally Saudi Arabia is also considering doing the same.
2. Even leaders of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are reportedly refusing to take calls from President Joe Biden during the Ukraine crisis. This has some history. Trump had threatened to withdraw security cover provided to oil kingdoms.
3. In another move, the UAE—which was one of the nations which waged a surrogate war against Syria and its President, Bashar al-Assad, for 10 years—has now received Assad in Dubai, stating that Syria is an essential part of Arab security. This must be maddening to the U.S. which still occupies one-third of Syria and still considers Assad persona non grata.
4. We are seeing U.S. delegations going to both Venezuela and Iran—long-time targets of U.S. regime-change attempts and sanctions—seeking oil from these countries to try to offset the net reduction of oil and natural gas supplies caused by the war in Ukraine and the sanctions leveled in response to it. This shows their desperation.
5. U.S. is attempting to claim that the world is on its side in wanting to isolate Russia, the opposite is actually true. Thus, if one looks at the countries that either voted against, abstained from or simply did not vote at all on the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s actions, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam; (not voting) Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela—one sees that countries representing the majority of the world’s population and a huge portion of its land mass are not with the U.S. on this.
6. The claims about global nature of boycott of Russia are false. BRICS countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) constituting 43% of the world population did not support sanctions. China is the 1st and India—third biggest economies of the world. Sanctions were not supported by Asia (excluding Japan and South Korea with their U.S. military bases), by the Middle East, by the largest countries of Latin America and by the majority of the African nations.
7. Many important world leaders have been very clear that they firmly put the blame upon the U.S. and NATO for what has happened in Ukraine. For years, the world has watched as the U.S. and NATO expanded up to Russia’s borders. They even bombed and invaded one nation after another (Serbia, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen) at will and with complete impunity; and flaunted international law as if it were a mere trifle. In addition to causing huge suffering, this has caused great resentment and frustration amongst the world community which seemed powerless to stop the Western onslaught.
8. While the U.S. may still be powerful militarily and able to coerce allies in South America, the almost sole domination which the U.S. exercised with great glee after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is coming to an end. Russia’s operations in Ukraine, understood as a strike against NATO aggression and encirclement, signals the end of the U.S. and NATO’s ability to act unilaterally around the world at will and without any repercussions.
9. The first signs of the crumbling of the unipolar order came in the rubble of the feckless wars of moralistic regime change usually referred to as the "War on Terror." The hubristic, militaristic excesses of the neoconservative elements of the Right (namely, Afghanistan and Iraq) and the humanitarian internationalist Left (namely, Libya), the failures of which were clearly evident at least a decade ago but which nonetheless were encapsulated by last year's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, have taken a huge toll on the American citizenry.
10. The manifest failures of the regime-change wars cost America huge sums in blood and treasure, but arguably even more important was the long-term symbolism conveyed: America is not all-powerful and America is incapable of crafting the world in its own image. That sober conclusion is only bolstered when one considers all the domestic woes our depleted citizenry faces: decades-high inflation, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birthrates, a porous southern border, escalating homicide and violent crime rates, and the metastasis of overtly racist "critical race theory" drivel and the deeply divisive tenets of modern gender ideology. Put simply, with elementary school teachers telling white students that they are "spirit-murdering" their black classmates and with "drag queen story hours" popping up in local public libraries, now is not the best time for Americans to be in the "values exportation" business.
U.S. imperialism has turned a huge part of the world against the U.S.
This is something that no country has dared to do since the end of the Cold War, and this marks the end of the “New World Order”—a doctrine pursuant to which the U.S. assumed to itself the role of master of the world—which President George H.W. Bush announced as the East Bloc was collapsing and which has been in place till now. Not surprisingly, most of the world never liked the terms of the “New World Order” to begin with, were in fact victimized under that regime and certainly are not going to do anything now to stop it from crumbling.
With the rise of China and the return of great-power competition, that unipolar era is, for all intents and purposes, now over. We must reconcile ourselves, to a reasonable extent, to the inevitability of China's continual rise and the likely return of a new Cold War-resemblant global chessboard.
CA Harshad Shah, firstname.lastname@example.org