By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
This year’s 19th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club was held under the Title A Post Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone (Oct 24-27 2022) in Moscow. The meeting was attended by 111 experts, politicians, diplomats and economists from 41 countries, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, South- Africa, Turkey, the United States and several other countries. What was noteworthy for this conference was that a high profile was given to representatives from India, Indonesia and China, who in different panels made constructive contributions concerning the future “Multilateral World Order”.
Indicative for the new thinking which emerged in Valdai was the Annual Report of the Valdai Discussion Club, entitled A World without Superpowers which had been compiled by a group of researchers from the Valdai Club including Oleg Barabanov, Timofei Bordachev, Yaroslav Lissovolik, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov and Ivan Timofeev. The report describes the process of disruptions of the world economy by stating: Disruptions on the economic foundation of the global system were the most striking manifestation of the superpower crisis(….) Starting in the 2000’s the world economy began to increasingly face powerful crises with alternative epicenters in the United States and Europe. Against this background the developing nations intensified their efforts to create their own mechanism of mutual assistance, which would protect the economies of the ‘Global South’ against the crisis waves emanating from advanced countries. It was emphasized that the advanced countries that were supposed to bring universal benefits for the global system turned into a source of dangerous losses (… )The 2008 mortgage crisis, a completely hand – made American domestic cataclysm, was the first and the strongest crisis that broke out in the developed world in the past few decades. The growing household debt was aggravated by the increasing interest rates of the Federal Reserve System. The plunging of real estate prices and the collapse of financial markets led to a large scale recession that provoked a global economic decline. It was followed by the crisis of the sovereign debt of the European countries.
The report pointed out that for a number of internal reasons, the West is losing the ability to maintain its order on the global scale. The main objective for now is to preserve the cohesion of its closest allies that make up the West. At the same time the capabilities of developing countries are growing due to their own achievement or the emergence of alternative sources (…) The United States is losing its status as a superpower, since it is now able to act as such only among its closest counterparties. With regard to everyone else, the West has to resort to outright pressure such as the threat or actual use of sanctions.” Yet the report also emphasizes that “medium sized powers such as Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi- Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and many others have taken on a particularly important role since they exemplify the democratization of international politics. With resources that enable them to conduct independent policies and greater flexibility… they can act as shock absorbers during periods of upheaval. It is not accidental that Washington, Moscow and Beijing are closely tracking these countries.”
Global South representatives speak up
In one of the Valdai Panels on the first day under the title Crumbling World Order. A world without superpowers representatives from countries of the ‘Global South’ were reengaged in an exciting discussion, by reflecting about the type of new multilateral order that could come into being. During the panel representatives from India, Indonesia, China and Algeria echoed in their arguments the same ideas that in the 1950ies had led to the founding of the Non Aligned Movement. As an Indian representative put it: The Pax American has lost its shine, while China is striving for parity with the US. India by 2050, with its 1,5 billion people will be self -reliant country and a fully developed state, he stated. We do not believe in a hegemonic world. India stands for a multipolar world. We need to work on the Global South at the G20, he stated. His views were in part echoed by a representative from Indonesia who pointed to the US strategy of technological decoupling that simply will accelerate China to become a technological superpower by 2050. Similarly the representative from China pointed out that, while the US is demonizing both Russia and China the US itself has been losing its world dominance in the last five years. That is why they launched the war on China -with its 40% military budget on a global scale it has produced a series of military disasters. The process of a new world without superpowers is now evolving. China’s strategy must protect world peace and development.
There was also a statement from a US representative who while describing the Afghanistan as well as Iraq war as outright disaster, put particular focus on the actual US debt that comprises 30 $ trill of the US GDP. The size of the new debt is enormous and the US Fed is buying that debt and invests in military spending. It has a global pool of Dollars. In respect to the disastrous ‘2008 global financial crisis’, the US representative remarked that today we can see how far Washington’s policy: By downloading its debt holdings, this has resulted in a major inflation in the energy sector and sanctions against Russia. An interesting statement was also made by an Algerian Institute Research Director who emphasized the significance of the actual Rise of the Global South which is tired to be bullied by the unipolar world. Most of the countries of the Global South did not accept the US and its allies’ strategy of sanctions against Russia. He underlined that the war between Russia and the Ukraine reflects the competition about what kind of order there should be. Whether we will go into a new Cold War or a more multilateral world. He explicitly made reference to the Non Aligned Movement adding that the World hegemony no longer holds moral ground. Despite huge pressure exerted on them, there is, as he put it, abstention of the Global South in the conflict (Russia /Ukraine) and he added that the Global South will join different groupings like the BRICS and the SCO.
President Putin calls for a reform of the Global Financial System
In his speech Russian President Putin pointed out that the Valdai conference was taking place in a world where serious shifts have taken place and where risks are posed by the degradation of global institutions (….) The erosion of collective security principles are being substituted by ‘rules’ for international law….It looks that we are witnessing an attempt to enforce just one rule whereby those in power could live without following any rules at all and could get away with anything.
The President spoke about a decaying creative potential of the West and a desire to restrain and block the free development of other civilizations. That the West tries to impose its so-called universal values of its culture and worldview. In order to illustrate this he quoted from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s famous Harvard Commencement Address delivered in 1978, where he said that typical of the West is a continuous blindness and superiority – and it continues to this day – which upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems: This blindness, Putin said, is not only openly racist and neocolonial, it has acquired especially distorted form, in particular, after the emergence of the so called unipolar world belief of infallibility to destroy those they do not like or to ‘cancel’ them.
The insanity of the Cancel Culture
Standardization, financial and technological monopoly, the erasure of all differences is what underlies the Western model of globalization, which is neocolonial in nature. Their goal was clear- to establish the unconditional dominance of the West in the global economy and politics. To do that, the West put at its service the entire planet’s natural and financial resource, as well as all intellectual, human and economic capabilities, while alleging it was another feature of the so called new global interdependence. What kind of world order are we living in? … As is customary, Washington continues to refer to the current international order as liberal American- style, but in fact, this notorious “order“ is multiplying chaos every day and, I might even add, is becoming increasingly intolerant even towards the Western countries and their attempts to act independently. Everything is nipped in the mud, and they do not even hesitate to impose sanctions on their allies, who lower their heads in acquiescence.… For example the Hungarian MP’s July proposals to codify the commitment to European Christian values and culture in the Treaty on European Union were not taken even as an affront, but as an outright and hostile act of sabotage.(…) Over a thousand years, Russia has developed a unique culture of interaction between all world religions. There is no need to cancel anything, be it Christian values, Islamic values of Jewish values.”
(..) I am convinced that real democracy in a multipolar world is primarily about the ability of any nation- I emphasize – any society or any civilization to follow its own path and organize its own socio-political system. If the United States or the EU countries enjoy this right, then the countries of Asia, the Islamic states, the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, and countries on other continents certainly have this right as well. Of course, our country Russia also has this right, and no one will ever be able to tell our people what kind of society we should be building and what principles should underlie it…
He noted that more and more nations simply reject Washington’s stance to achieve global supremacy and dictate it. We believe above all that the new world order must be based on law and right, and must be free, distinctive and fair. He then explained how the US had tried to weaponize the Dollar as a means to subjugate other nations on Earth and combined that with his own view about the future financial transactions.
According to Putin the United States and the West in general, have discredited the institution of international financial reserves. First they devalued it with inflation in the dollar and euro zones and then they took our gold and currency reserves. He emphasized that the transition to transactions in national currencies will quickly gain momentum. This is inevitable. Of course, it depends on the status if the issuers of these currencies and the state of their economies, but they will be growing stronger, and these transactions are bound to gradually prevail over the others. Such is the logic of a sovereign economic and financial policy in a multipolar world.
During the discussion Putin deepened the concept of new centers of power that are emerging, mainly in Asia of course but also in Africa and Latin America. He spoke about tectonic changes that we are witnessing and that will shape the future.
On the use of nuclear weapons
There was also a question about nuclear provocations and Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons as the US and GB had insinuated. Putin responded that the Western countries try to apply pressure on all countries, trying to convince our friends or neutral states that they all need to confront Russia collectively. Nuclear provocation and the inflaming of the possibility that Russia might theoretically use nuclear weapons are being used to reach these goals: to influence our friends, our allies , and neutral states by telling them, ‘look at whom you support; Russia is such a scary country, do not support it, do not cooperate with it, do not trade with it.’ This is in fact a very primitive goal.
He referred to statements made by former British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who had told the media that Great Britain is a nuclear power and that it is the duty of the PM to possibly use nuclear weapons: I’m ready to do that. He also pointed out that Kiev never stops talking about this desire to possess nuclear weapons. They keep talking about our outrageous actions at the Zaporyshye Nuclear Power Plant (…) They are constantly insinuating that we are firing missiles at the Zaporyzhye Nuclear Power Plant. Have they lost it altogether or what? We are in control of this nuclear power plant. Our troops are stationed there.
During the plenary discussion with Putin a representative from South Africa stated that sanctions, fear of reprisals have rendered monetary sovereignty meaningless, especially with the ‘weaponization’ of the payment system. In our contemporary conjuncture, what could then constitute a more democratic and workable alternative to the current international system of payments and settlements? Putin responded that this is one of the key issues of the current development and the future of not only the financial system, but also the world order. Given that the Bretton Woods System is breaking down and that the US made the mistake to use the Dollar as a weapon to fight for its political interests, this all would undermine the trust in the Dollar and other reserve currencies…Now everyone is thinking whether to keep foreign currency reserves in dollars. He further added that given that the US financial authorities are weaponizing the dollar and creating problems with payments not only for us, but also for our partners and other countries, the striving for independence will inevitably promote settlements in national currencies. As an example he reported that with India, we are now making 53% of mutual payments for exports in national currencies, and about 27 % for imports. Similarly arrangements with other countries are being increasingly used. For example, with China, payments in “yuan” and rubles are expanding fast, and with other countries, too- I will not list them all now. So, as for our own financial system, I believe the main way to proceed is to create a supranational global monetary system that would be depoliticized and based on national currency systems. This system would certainly ensure payments and transactions.
The upcoming G20 meeting in Bali
There was also a guest from Indonesia, who being excited about Putin’s speech, welcomed him to the upcoming (Nov 20th) G20 summit in Bali. In his answer Putin underlined that Russia has very good relations with Indonesia throughout most of recent history. When President Widodo calls me, he calls me brother and I say the same to him. We value our relationship with Indonesia. I am grateful to the leadership and the President for the invitation to the G20 meeting. We will think how we can go about it. Russia will definitely be represented there at a high level. Maybe I will go too. I will think about it.
While he emphasized that China is our biggest trade and economic partner as well as country with which regular military exercises occur, he stated in response to an Indian Major General who had asked, what role India should play in the post hegemonic world, that India with its 1,5 billion People and noticeable development evokes universal admiration. He emphasized that much had been done under the leadership of PM Modi, a true patriot of his country. We have a special relationship with India that was built for many decades; we have never had any issues with India. He mentioned that Modi had asked him to increase the supply of fertilizers which is very important for Indian agriculture and we did it. The supply of fertilizers to India has increased by 7,6 times. Bilateral trade in agricultural products has almost doubled. We continue to expand ties in military -technical cooperation.