The term "multipolarity" has increasingly been trumpeted by Russia, China,
India and many others since the mid-1990s as the most desirable and equitable
configuration for the world order. Multipolarity is seen across much of the
globe as the most attractive replacement for US-dominated unipolarity. Does it
really matter? Are unipolarity and the US-centric world order really at risk?
The fundamental configuration of the world order is rapidly undergoing
transformation as US power and influence continue
their progressive dilution in all spheres and those of rival centers or poles
such as Russia and China are becoming ever more concentrated, thanks in no
small measure to their advancing control over global strategic energy
Control over strategic resources has become the primary lever to increased
global influence for those powers either rich in such resources or closely
allied with those who are.
Hence, in the insidious and perceptible rebalancing of global power, moving
from inordinate concentration in one pole (the US) to distribution among rival
poles (Russia, China and others) we are witnessing the progressive rising of a
new world order. However, what will its true configuration turn out to be?
Fundamentally, multipolarity simply means multiple poles, or centers of power,
distributed widely and more equitably across the globe, with no single pole
inordinately dominating the others. However, does the term multipolarity
accurately describe the configuration of the new world order that is now
arising? Or is its real configuration developing into something quite different
than mere generic "multipolarity"?
The concept of multipolarity does not properly take into consideration a recent
and ongoing development of fundamentally enormous significance - the redivision
of most of the world order into two camps, "East" and West, with control over
strategic energy resources as the primary dividing line between the two camps.
Even the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) consisting of 116 developing nations,
encompassing most of the world's authoritarian governments and two-thirds of
the United Nations membership, generally takes stances independent of, or even
against, the US pole, thus most often in de facto alliance with the rising
"East" rather than West. Notably, NAM has come down on Iran's side in the
ongoing nuclear dispute, reaffirming Iran's right to domestic enrichment
activities, to the pointed chagrin of the US. Significantly, a large portion of
the member nations of NAM possess great deposits of strategic energy and
mineral resources of very high value.
Thus, simple "multipolarity" allows for the fundamentally erroneous assumption
that all the poles or centers of power are genuinely discrete, that each pole
is virtually insulated from the gravitational effects of other poles. In the
real world such is certainly not the case.
Any pole or center of power that achieves a noteworthy degree of power and
influence tends to pull or attract other centers of power toward itself -
especially those in proximity to it, geographically, economically or
geopolitically. Furthermore, that rising pole tends to draw additional power
from the poles that begin to lean inward, as it were, toward it, thus fueling
an accelerated rise of the more prominent pole. The result is a new center of
power that is complex in nature, with many lesser poles arrayed around one or
two greater poles in the nucleus of the newly arising center of power.
A prime example of the phenomenon noted above is the Russia-China axis that is
rapidly attracting around itself an array of many lesser but significant poles.
As noted above, the two poles (Russia-China and America-Britain) each possess a
gravitational pull that no others on the globe can lay claim to, and the main
dividing line between the two poles has become control over strategic energy
Consequently, the new configuration of the arising world order is fundamentally
reverting to a bipolar nature. Just two primary rival poles increasingly
dictate, by their gravitational influence, developments across the globe.
Stated another way, major global developments increasingly fit into the
framework of the competition and rivalry between the two primary poles. Even
the notably important emerging power India, for example, is extremely unlikely
to develop into a genuinely discrete center of power that will make the global
distribution of power a three-way equation between West, East and
Rather, India will lean significantly inward either toward alignment with the
US or with Russia-China. The fundamental evidence proves India is aligning with
Russia-China, notwithstanding the "face" of its pragmatic policy of concluding
certain cooperation agreements with the US for access to crucial advanced
technologies to accelerate its rise as an emerging power, agreements India
insists must be concluded mostly on its own terms.
The recent visit of China's President Hu Jintao to India resulted in the
signing of a number of key agreements and documents deepening the strategic
ties between the two great powers in the key spheres of economic and security
relations, deepening trilateral relations between the two powers and Russia,
and international energy security. Their joint statement declared their intent
to work with Russia to create a new international energy order that is fair and
equitable. That directly insinuates the current US-led global energy order is
not the one to be strengthened nor adhered to.
Generic multipolarity ultimately fails to describe properly these real-world
phenomena, those of a global reversion to bipolarity along with the inherent
complexity (multifarious makeup) found especially within the new pole arising
in the "East". But that is not all with respect to the failings of the
multipolar model in describing accurately where the world order is really
heading. "Multipolarity" insinuates that no single pole is inordinately
dominant over the others. But contrary to that insinuation, the bipolar
configuration that is even now arising will definitely facilitate a meaningful
degree of control by one pole, the one now arising in the "East".
Yet, the configuration that is now arising will still correctly be described as
bipolar (not unipolar) because the pole in the West, though it is even now
moving into a situation where a significant measure of control by the "East" is
inevitable, will not be absolutely dominated in all spheres, nor will it be
made to collapse as did the Soviet Union, nor will it cease to exist as a
How will the West fall under the significant control of the East? By means of
the consolidation of its control over global energy and its mounting economic
wealth and strength the East will take a significant measure of political,
economic and even military independence away from the West, including the US
itself. The US has become hopelessly dependent on foreign sources of energy,
minerals and financing. In fact, the process of Eastern consolidation over
global energy resources and the resultant Western loss of independent power is
already underway and it is accelerating.
The Russia-China axis, increasingly winning the alignment and cooperation of
India as well, is busily constructing a global complex of oil, gas and economic
ties and alliances that includes most of the vital exporting states around the
globe and the bulk of the rising powerhouse economies of the East. Russia,
China and India are spreading their wings (or tentacles as the case may be) far
and wide to encompass key oil and gas exporting states. This is ushering the
world's important producers into cooperative agreements that extend far beyond
energy-related matters to include the military sphere as well. Wide-ranging
agreements concluded with Venezuela, Algeria and Saudi Arabia for joint
ventures in the production of oil and gas and for weapons and military
technology sales are only three recent examples. A clear global strategy is
evident, one that is compelling and brilliant. It is also virtually unstoppable
by the West.
In the military, economic and energy spheres, the uniting of Russia's technical
expertise and strategic resources with the enormous financing and manpower
capabilities of China and the mounting technology and manpower capabilities of
India, and the extension world-wide of their joint influence to gather into
orbit about themselves the key global exporters of minerals, oil and gas, is a
development of enormous consequence for the current unipolar world order.
That de facto global complex, when soon completed, will incorporate a global
energy monopoly whose strings are virtually pulled from Moscow and Beijing.
Increasingly, key members of the complex speak about dispensing with the US
dollar in their international energy transactions. The eventual consolidation
of the new global energy complex will result in loss to the West in various
important ways, and in a grand reversal, will place the multifarious East in
ascendancy over West.
Russia and China, the foremost promoters of what they have called the
multipolar world order, insist that such is not aimed at any single power such
as the US. However, that is mere indirection on their part as they work smart
and energetically to construct the foundation, namely global control of
strategic resources, that facilitates the rise of their new world order, an
order aimed directly at undermining the US global position.
Additionally, they now know full well that what is arising will not be merely
"multipolar" in nature, that is, an even distribution of power centers across
the globe. Instead, they fully realize their potential to achieve energy-based
ascendancy over the West by means of the complex of global energy ties and
alliances they are now constructing. Consequently, the move toward global
equilibrium (from unipolar to so-called "multipolar") will overshoot the mark
of equilibrium and hand energy-based ascendancy to the now rising multifarious
pole of the "East".
Along the path toward this eventuality there will undoubtedly be more oil wars
such as the one waged in Iraq in 2003, and ideological "wars" such as the
"Orange Revolution" in Ukraine of 2004, but the West cannot prevent the
eventuality described here being realized very soon judging by the rapidity
with which global events are moving in that very direction.
Hence, the bipolar world order that is even now arising will not, in fact, be
balanced or symmetrical, with both poles roughly canceling each other out in a
zero-sum game. Instead, it will be asymmetrical, with the "East" in ascendancy
over the West.
In view of the foregoing, the term "multipolar" may adequately describe the
complex, multifarious composition of the rising pole of the East itself, but
that term is entirely inappropriate to describe the essentially (uneven)
bipolar global configuration that is impending for the world order.
From the preceding fundamental analysis of the geopolitical system we could now
attempt to construct a new and more accurate term to describe where the world
order is actually heading:
Asymmetrical bipolar complexity refers to the uneven bipolar world order that
is impending, one in which especially the East pole is complex (multifarious)
in nature, consisting of many lesser poles in array around the nucleus that
consists of the Russia-China axis.
To coin a new term, the phrase could be shortened to Asymm-Plexity by dropping
the "bipolar" portion for the reason that in its most fundamental sense the
word "asymmetrical" already strongly insinuates just two main parts (bipolar),
but of unequal size or power. "Multipolarity" is a misnomer because it fails to
meet the requirement of accurately describing where the world order is actually
Asymm-Plexity (asymmetrical bipolar complexity) more accurately describes the
uneven bipolarity that is impending.
Part 3: The rising pole of the East
W Joseph Stroupe is author of the new book entitled Russian
Rubicon: Impending Checkmate of the West and editor of Global Events Magazine
online at www.GeoStrategyMap.com.
( Copyright 2004-2006 GeoStrategyMap.com and W Joseph Stroupe.)