The New Multipolar World - How to run it?

University of Helsinki, Hall 12 · 22.10.2014 15:00 - 17:30

The emerging world order is increasingly characterized by a growing interdependence between key actors: US, EU, and China are trying to manage the modalities of the global system in their own terms. Besides the three, there are several resource intensive states who struggle to become first class powers. Russia as one of them is a complicated and tense mixture of modern and old. Its challenge has been to find foothold in the maps of contemporary world order by flourishing in the games of interdependence. Nowit is trying to combine its resources – from energy to military – to regain its future as a respected first world power. What are the West’s and Russia’s chances in competing for the influence of the regionally important states – e.g. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan? Is Russia over-stretching? As the world seems to become more multipolar, the power is being redistributed. Who are the winners or losers in the current game of world order?

Parag Khanna, Senior Fellow, Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Dr. Khanna holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. He has recently been a Visiting Fellow at LSE IDEAS (2011-13), Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (2011-13) and Distinguished Visitor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Dr. Khanna is an Adjunct Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Srgjan Kerim, 62nd President of the UN Assembly
Dr. Kerim received his PhD 1982 from the University of Belgrade. He was from 1972 to 1991 assistant and professor at the International Economic Relations Desk at the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade. Kerim was Foreign Minister of the Republic of Macedonia in 2000-2001. He has also been elected as the 62nd President of the UN Assembly.
Chair: Alpo Rusi, Ambassador, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland 
Mr. Rusi served in the Foreign Ministry of Finland in several assignments, and from 1994 to 1999 as foreign policy adviser to the President of Finland. He also served as EU Coordinator for the Sarajevo Summit 1999 and deputy Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Western Balkans in 1999-2000. He has also worked as professor of International Relations at Lapland University and in Hamburg (2000-2003).
Summary of the seminar: 

Prof. Alpo Rusi opened the seminar and introduced the speakers. In his presentation, Dr. Srgjan Kerim used the behavioural approach to analyse the recent events in world politics. He argued that the US behaves as if it was the only superpower, but in reality its unipolarity will not last forever. Russia has started to behave as a superpower and to demonstrate its power while China is also building its military force with the help of industrialisation and the economic boom. However, China will not try to annex Taiwan because that would mean a clash with the US. Typical geopolitical behaviour is most visible in the UN Security Council, where the permanent five members do not seem to agree on anything. These countries try to create their spheres of influence and for Central Asian countries, the regional integration is the only way to resist their powerful neighbours. In the era of globalisation, fastness and flexibility are comparative advantages of small countries.

Dr. Parag Khanna remarked that the world has changed. The concepts of ‘east’ and ‘west’ now consist of different regions than during the Cold War era. The world is becoming multipolar not only regionally, but globally as well. The regions are now intercontinental and connected by capital, trade and infrastructure. Cultural, political and institutional ties also connect regions. The world organises itself through interregional relations. Even though the globalisation process might seem to be slowing down in Europe, connections between China and Africa, for instance, are rising rapidly. Geopolitics can be understood by the logic of supply and demand. In some relationships, the supply and demand are heavily imbalanced. Great power peace and stability of geopolitics are implications of the concentration of urban populations in coastal areas and the connectedness of those regions.

After the presentations, Prof. Heikki Patomäki opened the floor to questions. The first question dealt with the new BRICS bank, which both of the speakers saw as a response to the deficiencies of the World Bank and to the needs of poorer countries, including state-building by infrastructure.  Existing institutions were created a long time ago and the needs of the countries have changed. The problem is that institutional reforms are difficult to achieve. The adaptability of nation states was the following topic of discussion. It was pointed out that the governments’ duty is to enable the global flows and to maximise marketisation. A question was also raised on whether the attempts to replace dollar as a main currency in the world would lead to a conflict. Dr. Kerim noted that the monopoly of the dollar has been unbreakable and the changes would require decades to be fully implemented. Then he continued by answering the question concerning the role of the UN Security Council by addressing the difficulties in reforming it. He mentioned that the suggestions made in Dr. Khanna’s article (2003, The New York Times) are the only possible way to reform the Council. The speakers were then asked about the future of the political borders, which they both saw as changeable. Dr. Khanna remarked that devolution exists in all countries while Dr. Kerim added that the OSCE was created to enable the countries to change their borders not by force but by negotiation. The final questions dealt with the effect of the substantial state debt on the US contribution to the world order and on the role of corporations in running the world.  Even the state debt has been seen as a serious issue to national security in US, the speakers agreed that the US is such a significant player that it can behave as it wants and it still has lever to other countries by diplomatic and strategic ways. Dr. Kerim sees corporations as providers of additional decision making on a supranational level, while Dr. Khanna noted that global governance should be organised in a way in which all relevant and powerful players – whether they are states, corporations or something else – are focused on a specific issue.