The US under President Joe Biden aims to unite the West and “like-minded” countries in Europe and Asia and raise pressure simultaneously on Russia and China. But the world order is no longer unipolar or US-centered – the geopolitical state after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What now exists should be called the Multipolar Word Order 2.0 (the first version having been in play during World War II), a new stage of multipolarity heralded by the Russian war in Ukraine.
The US is no longer the dominant power in the Eurasian continent. It has lost its hegemonic position in favor of the established young superpower China, the emerging great power Russia, and the rising big power India. Middle power Iran is also challenging the US in the Middle East. In the strategic front, North Korea looms large as it keeps developing its missile program and expanding its capability to launch nuclear strikes on the US and its military bases and operations in East Asia.
Across Eurasia, countries are aligning with either the US and West or China and Russia. Iran, for example, is implementing its “Look to the East” policy, strengthening its links to Beijing and Moscow. In reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are in the process of becoming members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which will strengthening the West's military capabilities. (As of March 27, Finland needed only the ratification of its accession by the parliament of Turkey.) Georgia and Ukraine also hope to join NATO but the transatlantic security alliance is not yet ready to admit either of the two embattled Russian neighbors.
Eurasia in the Multipolar World Order 2.0
In this Multipolar World Order 2.0, the West and East will contend across the supercontinent, primarily in the Indo-Pacific (South and East Asia), Central Asia, South Caucasus, Central and Eastern Europe, and even the Middle East. This struggle will be manifested in hot wars or proxy wars in fragile regions. Ukraine and Syria are already arenas of conflict.
International norms and laws are being interpreted in different ways. To justify their actions in different parts of Eurasia, the great powers will appeal to principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and self-determination. But the rules and legalities will play a secondary role, with economic, political and military capabilities of states playing the decisive role. This tough competition between the rival great powers asserting their spheres of influence will entail weaponized sanctions to secure technologies and exclude the opponent from access to markets, controls over vaccine distribution, restrictions on financial activities, and battles for influence in international organizations. This will only mean continued instability across the continent – a "new Cold War", as some have called it.
Market access for companies of different states will be limited depending on the spheres of influence of the poles. Cyberspace will be another battlefield where great and middle powers will compete. Small and middle states may have little or no room to choose or maneuver. They will have to or be forced to choose one of the poles or centers, given their practical economic and/or security needs. Their independence will be diminished. In the Multipolar World Order 2.0, the centers will limit or even cut their economic links with rivals or perceived adversaries over geopolitical or even ideological differences, as has already happened between the West and Russia. The continuation of these trends will only lead to new conflicts.
The war in Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022, has become the top security concern of the Eurasian continent. The post-Cold War unipolar moment is long over. To be sure, Biden has tried – with some success – to use the conflict to rally Western allies and other partners around the world to apply sanctions on Russia (in addition to those that were already in place in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014). After the invasion of Ukraine, 141 members of the United Nations voted for a measure demanding that Russia withdraw unconditionally. Only four countries – Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Eritrea and Syria – supported Moscow and rejected the resolution, with 47 abstaining or missing the vote.