G20 and the Coming New World Order
By Alexander Lukin

G20 and the Coming New World Order

May. 09, 2023  |     |  110 comments

G20 is a relatively new institution, and it is both the result and one of the most important manifestations of the post-bipolar world as it emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s caused a fundamental change to the long-standing system of international relations based on the confrontation between two centers of power. The Soviet Union’s sudden departure from the scene left something of a vacuum. Although many states, even outside the Western world, disliked the Soviet Union and even criticized it, its absence left many states, especially larger ones, wary of a certain threat. That threat stemmed, first, from the instability in the international situation resulting from the end of a bipolar system that had guaranteed a certain order, and second, from the possibility that the one remaining center of power – now freed from any external checks and balances – might encroach on the interests of others.

Thus, when the United States celebrated its victory in the Cold War, and Francis Fukuyama declared the “end of history,” China, India, Brazil, and many other countries in Asia, Africa, and South America viewed that development with some uneasiness. Meanwhile, the non-Western centers of power continued to grow. This resulted in their wish to cooperate and win a greater, more significant role in the institutions of world governance. Non-Western groups and international organizations emerged (SCO, BRICS) while existing ones gained influence (ASEAN, OPEC, and others).

These tendencies resulted from the policy of creating a cooperation mechanism between major Western and non-Western powers. On the Western side, it was seen as a concession, an acknowledgment of the new reality, and on the non-Western side – as a natural tendency of the international system to become more just and inclusive. G20 has emerged as, perhaps, the most important manifestation of these approaches. It included both the countries of G7 that represented the interests of the West and of members of BRICS, which represented the Global South or the non-Western world.

Unfortunately, this tendency met with significant difficulties. It turned out that the Western world was not ready for significant concessions. The fundamental ideology of the West, according to which the entire world’s development can only be successful if it is based on Western-imposed “rules” and “values,” has not changed. Institutions like G20 were seen not as a platform for an agreement based on consensus but as a means of promoting their Western agenda. The non-Western powers were dissatisfied with the failure to achieve a greater say in the world governance system controlled by the West. As a result, the great power politics that manifests itself in the selfish realization of one’s interests by world power centers is becoming increasingly popular.

This situation led to a growing number of dangerous international conflicts, including a war in the center of Europe, and could lead to a world nuclear catastrophe. The resolution of these problems will require a mechanism for interaction. Such a mechanism can be created if the main centers of power reach a consensus on the limited area where their views converge and “agree to disagree” on all other issues while avoiding sharp confrontation. This will essentially revive the notion of “peaceful coexistence” that was part of the bipolar world. The meaning is that while not sharing global development goals or social system ideals, big players refuse to wage wars against each other and try to come to an agreement where agreement is possible. This approach matches some ideas promoted by non-Western powers: Russia often speaks of the “democratization of international relations,” and China uses the notion of “coexisting harmoniously while maintaining difference.” In India, they talk about “cooperative pluralism” and “unity and diversity.” G20 can play an essential role in this change. The only alternative to this would be an unpredictable world with no rules where all fight against all.