Declining Neorealism in the West

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Neorealism theory in international relations have several dimensions but the main line is that every state has a duty to survive in the chaotic world when there is no superior, non-state actor who can settle disputes and regulates state behaviours. The UN, OSCE, the Arab League and other international organisations, who declared their goals as developers and peacemakers, only exists because of goodwill of states, get funding from states and often ruled by very small amount group of states – generally regional or global powers. UN Security Council is a perfect example for the realists, who are assuming that five permanent members of the council decide the fate of others. All of that means that international anarchy – the system without real, superior governance – is prevail, which is an opening door for almost any international state actor to achieve its main goal – survive. State which is stronger has a much tangible chance to survive and lead, than a country which relies on the goodwill of others. 

In this theoretical approach state leaders are making their decisions through state interests and if they don’t, then they will face the terrible consequences soon. Once British PM Lord Palmerston mentioned that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests”, which can define as the motto of the realist theory.

All of this approach is often considered as an immoral, but reliable, because the world is not a place where solutions mean win-win agreement, but often a vice-versa.

Russia basically using the realist approach to make the decisions, since she is trying to come back in the international stage. First, her goal was to gain economic influence over Europe and she did it by using the great amount of gas and oil resources. Second, she tried to separate Europe and the United States on certain foreign affairs and she made it in terms of Iraq, on matters of NATO enlargement, on defence 2% budget spending and on changing perception on Russia as a potential threat. Third, Russia tried to revive sphere of influence around her neighbourhood, started military aggression first in Georgia in 2008 and then in Ukraine 2014. This latter step did not fully achieve, in spite of occupation and annexe some parts of both countries. EU and U.S. set sanctions on Russia, but even so, there are several ultra-left and ultra-right movements in the EU member states and in the U.S. who are ready to nod their heads on Russia’s aggression and her undermining policies in the world.

Someone can easily say that radical movements which mentioned above behave as a realists, because they only care what is important to their state’s interests, but in reality Russia step-by-step become a force, which aims to change current order in the EU and set a conditions for the European nations, tame their ambitions and diminish EU’s credibility as a whole. Separate, single nations can much easily become a subject of Russia’s carrot and stick policy. Divide et impera (Divide and rule) is a very old and very effective political tool. Russia stops only when she faces a strong will and force.

But alongside Russia, China tries to undermine the world’s democratic and western-centred order. Use the Neorealist approach to international relations and using the economy as a primal weapon to depend on other nations and then to achieve its goals, she has become a reckoning force in the world. Russia and China both ruled by strong-man, using recurrent repressions inside and soft power outside, disinformation in media and accusations of the West and be as threatening as necessary.

So what can we assume from this given reality? According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 2017 was the very bad year for the democracy. There is an increase of hybrid regimes or flawed democracies around the world, which points those authoritarian regimes generally become a role-models for many developing or developed countries, because of its realist approach and clearer perception of the world politics. This can become a premonition and sequence of democratic decline, which only threatens of security of the wold itself. It is a well known that full, consolidating democracy do not go to war each other.

During this time what is happening in the Western countries? Isolationism and antagonistic nationalism are rising around Europe. Scepticism over the EU’s role is rising in Europe. ultra-radical political movements behave as was a Comintern operated in Europe during the early Soviet times. Moreover, Gallup’s annual survey of global opinion toward the leadership showed the notable decline of U.S. approval ratings around the world, while China is increasing its positions. If the USA won’t be willing to be a stabilizer and the leader of the free world than dividing force will achieve its most important goal and separate western powers to each other. U.S. and EU leaders are crucial for many other dimensions also: for example if global powers abandon or not willing to be alongside their allays and smaller partners like Georgia or Moldova and their aspirations, then it is going to be a terrible sign for other young democracies, who are aspiring towards the West.

All of that pointing that the West is entangled, searching for the new ways of integrating and is trying to find its new role in this world. But in this process perception of potential and in some cases existential (for example the Baltic states) threats from the Russia and China were underrated. And this is often happening because of the so-called mirror-imagining – assertion that the other actor is likely to act in a certain way because you would behave like that. Russia and China are not democracies and do not perceive the world as a democracy do and therefore never behaving as rational as democracies do – that should be a lesson number one. Therefore if any Western power sees the world through Neorealists approach it easily finds that decline of the West only increases real costs of security and stability in their own homes.

Giorgi Koberidze
Senior Fellow

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