Thursday, December 24, 2020, 09:47 (GMT+7)
A snapshot of the world politics in 2020

The world politics in 2020 could be described with many noticeable issues. The complex developments of COVID-19 pandemic have been strongly promoting an economic, political and social shift towards a new world order threatening the U.S. role of global leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world

Since its outbreak in late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has been still very complex, without any sign of stopping. Many scientists and politicians believe that COVID-19 has changed and will change the world politics and economy fundamentally and it will considerably transform the world understanding of international relations and modern warfare. According to Russian President Putin, the world should be acutely aware of how COVID-19 affects the entire human race’s present and future. He stresses that the world is both adapting to fundamental changes and gradually entering a new era of major transformations in all aspects of the social life. Henry Kissinger, former National Security Advisor and U.S. Secretary of State, reckons that the world will be completely changed after the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. shall develop an action plan for a new era. According to Richard Haass, President of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, great crisis caused by COVID-19 marks a turning point in the current history, more clearly exposes basic features of the present-day geo-political situation, and accelerates the transitional period towards a new world order that has ever taken place in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic also reveals major weaknesses of the capitalist economic system in the West, especially in the United States. It is thought after the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist system, capitalism would be the “Golden Rule” for the rest of the world. However, this assertion has been questioned about its possibility right in the West. In the context of COVID-19, doubts about capitalism are increased manyfold and the West no longer considers itself as a pattern for the whole world. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught Western countries extremely bitter lessons on their democracy, while dissolving “the superiority” of this political system. That is an opinion stated at the World Economic Forum organised on January 21st, 2020 in Davos (Switzerland). According to reports of this forum, capitalism is now at a critical juncture and it could be renewed to develop. The annual Munich Security Conference held on February 15th, 2020 in Germany took place in the atmosphere of concern over the existence of the Western era. The main theme of the 2020 conference was “Westlessness” as Western countries (led by the U.S.) were unable to reach an agreement on a strategy for the prevention of COVID-19 and the U.S. even withdrew from the World Health Organisation (WHO) - the key office in the fight against this pandemic.

With reference to the new world order that is being shaped

The world order after the World War II has been established by the three victorious countries, namely the Soviet Union, the U.S., and the UK. At present, the Soviet Union no longer exists. The role of the U.S. and the UK has been changed. Meanwhile, China and Germany are actively striving to become superpowers. Against that backdrop, some assume that it is necessary to restructure the world order and even entirely remove international relations as they have been out of date. However, according to Russian President Putin, although the Soviet Union no longer exists, Russia has the right to inherit the Soviet Union’s status and become a major power with its responsibility for the international community; therefore, it is essential to continue maintaining the existing fundamental institutions (the United Nations and its Security Council) together with each permanent member’s right of veto which has ever proved to be an effective way of protecting the world peace and security. Only by gradually adjusting the world political structure in accordance with the new global context could the whole world resolve global issues and threats, such as serious environment deterioration, nuclear arms race, international terrorism, and cyber attack. It is impossible for only one country, even the most powerful one, to deal with those issues and threats.

In the new world order, the relations between the U.S., China, and Russia will play a key role. Regarding the U.S. and China, COVID-19 has pushed the comprehensive strategic competition between the two sides to a greater degree of tension. The U.S. is shaping its entire relations with China. Regardless of the 2020 US Presidential Election, the relations between the two countries will continue witnessing major changes. However, they can’t enter a new Cold War yet as the two sides are too dependent on each other economically. Meanwhile, in the relations between the U.S. and Russia, US President Donald Trump has withdrawn America from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and made no plan for negotiation with Russia to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START III) which will have expired by February 2021. That move by the U.S. could prompt a new nuclear arms race with not only Russia but also many other countries, especially China. Concerning the relations between Russia and China, at the 17th Annual Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club held online on October 22nd, 2020 Russian President Putin states that the relations between the two sides are the most effective and reliable of ever; therefore, a military alliance is not necessary. However, theoretically, it is completely possible to suppose such an alliance.

New developments in the world hot spots

On January 28th, 2020 US President Donald Trump officially announced his new Middle East peace plan, which he called “Deal of the Century,” aimed at settling decades-long conflict between Palestine and Israel. However, right after its issue, this plan led to disunity within the U.S., Israel, and the international community as well. Apparently, only resolutions and equal, comprehensive, sustainable solutions by the United Nations could help establish peace in the Middle East and resolve the decades-long conflict under the principle of two-state peaceful co-existence. To that end, Israel shall withdraw from its illegally occupied territories while Palestine will establish an independent state according to the pre-1967 boundaries and its capital city will be located in Eastern Jerusalem.

On February 29th, 2020, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement in the capital city of Doha, Qatar, opening up an opportunity for the U.S. 18-year war in this South Asia country. According to the agreement, the Taliban would cut off all ties with international terrorist organisations and discuss political solutions to resolve the conflict with the government of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the U.S. would step by step reduce its military presence in Afghanistan and it would recommend the United Nations Security Council to lift sanctions on members of the Taliban.

In Ladakh, both China and India claim their sovereignty over this region. Tension between the two countries, therefore, has increased so far. There were moments when the dispute was out of control and even led to the border war in 1962. However, it has been completely solved yet. More seriously, conflicts between the two sides also take place in the border (nearly 3,500 kilometres) along the Himalayas. Hence, on May 5th, 2020, right after the outbreak of a conflict, both India and China deployed military forces equipped with heavy weapons to the border, increasing the risk of a war between the two nuclear-weapon powers. However, finally, the two sides had to restrain themselves as they are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the five major emerging national economies (BRICS). On September 10th, 2020, in Moscow, thanks to Russia’s role as a mediator, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar signed a five-point agreement, according to which the border defence forces of the two sides shall keep a necessary distance from each other as the basis for a political solution.

While hot issues around the world, such as North Korea’s nuclear programme and crises in Venezuela, Syria, and Libya witnessed no considerable developments in late 2019, there were two new hot spots in the post-Soviet space. First was the colour revolution organised and incited by external forces in Belarus after the country’s presidential election on August 9th, 2020 in which the incumbent President Lukashenko obtained over 80% of the votes and was re-elected. The colour revolution was aimed at overthrowing President Lukashenko, enabling leader of the opposition to take up power in Minsk, separating this country from the Belarus-Russia Union State, and forcing it join the NATO. Although the revolution in Belarus was unsuccessful, the situation in this country is still unstable due to the intervention from the West. Second, the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, which had commenced since 1988, suddenly broke out on September 28th, 2020. In this conflict, Turkey publicly supported Azerbaijan in all diplomatic, political, economic and military fields, thereby turning Nagorno-Karabakh into a link in the Turkish strategy to restore the influence of a new Ottoman Empire. To prevent this threat, on September 11th, 2020, Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, and Russian President Putin signed a statement on ending all military activities in Nagorno-Karabakh from 00:00 (Moscow time), November 10th, 2020. According to Russian President Putin, the agreement would provide a necessary prerequisite for dealing with the dispute in Nagorno-Karabakh in a long-term, proper manner on the basis of equality, for the sake of Armenian and Azerbaijan peoples.

To sum up, geo-political changes in 2020 prove that the world is undergoing a transitional period from a uni-polar world order established after the World War II into a new one. The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst and created opportunities for changes in the world. In the world history, there have been many opportunities to build a global architecture for protecting the Earth. However, all of them have not worked out. Currently, COVID-19 is giving an incentive to establishing new structures for preventing even more serious disasters in the future. To build a new global structure and settle many international issues, Russian President Putin has proposed organising a Summit with the participation of heads of member states from the United Nations Security Council. Putin’s initiative has been supported by US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Sr. Col. LE THE MAU 

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