Phnom Penh (FN), Jun. 9 - There are years in the world’s history when everything changes. Years that radically affect the course of events and the lives of humans. In 1991, the world born after 1945 ceased to exist with the end of the its division into two hermetic blocks. The 20th century was ending. And then started a period unlike any other in history: a single power dominated the whole world. Even the Roman Empire was not a world leader; the other side of the planet was dominated by the Empire of China.

Some have imprudently called the end of the Cold War "the end of history" or, even, "the victory of capitalism". A great hope arose then. The hope to organize a new world order based not on the situation of 1945, but on the realities of 1991, since in the meantime, important countries had freed themselves from Western colonialism. But it was quickly stifled. The UN Secretary proposed a document of critical importance that recognized the 1991 world as it was. It was called the “Agenda for Peace”. It was rejected by the USA with the approval of the four other super powers. The American supremacy was thus recognized. This "victory" was also materialized by the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) imposing on States around the world, under the guise of free trade, the domination of the most powerful private actors.

As a matter of fact, this period was only a transition since, little by little, large countries were emerging as leading economic players. A transition also because, after having reaped the benefits of the liberalization of trade, twenty years after the warnings issued by the thinkers of the anti-globalization movement, many governments have gradually realized the major damage caused by the will of the WTO to attack the so-called “non-tariff barriers on good and services”, which means to privatize public services, to dismantle social, health and environmental legislations because, according to WTO rules, they are “barriers to competition”.

The new global division of production and labor has caused the creation of wealth, but also growing disparities not only between countries but also within each country between the rich and those who are not rich or are less and less rich. The new order born in 1991 has created new worldwilde inequalities.

Within the Western world itself the damage created by ultra-liberalism has provoked a questioning of this model. The massive de-industrialization in sectors that had made the West rich for half a century has raised questions about the relevance of such globalization. In particular among those who lived only from their work and have seen their jobs leave for countries where salaries, working conditions and social security are much lower or even non-existent.

The new global division of labor created by the WTO agreements failed to protect the workers in the Western world ; if it created jobs in the rest of the planet, it failed to improve enough the situation of the workers there because their governments and the private sector wanted to preserve their advantage to produce at lower cost and high profits.
It had political consequences in Western countries. Because ultra-liberalism was not only promoted by political leaders who used to defend the private sector but also, and sometimes with zeal and ardor, by liberal or social-democrat leaders while their historical political role was to defend the weakest. Many of these, desapointed, began to turn to demagogues and populists who admire authoritarian regimes. The democratic model was challenged within the very countries that advocate it around the world.

At the same time, the military choices of the West, and its military arm, NATO, were presented as models to follow, even when they violated an international law that the West claimed to defend. At the end of the day, these choices have proven to be resounding failures, the latest being the abandonment in scandalous conditions of the Afghan people after having encouraged them to adopt a model of society condemned by those to whom they are handed over.

For all these reasons, politically, economically and socially and in terms of international relations, for the rest of the world, the model advocated by the West has started to crumble.

Ironically, it happened at this stage in the world’s evolution that two exceptional events arose: the COVID-19 pandemic and the first territorial invasion of a European sovereign state in 83 years. The consequences of these two events are of such magnitude that they cause the world to shift.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed three realities. First of all, it confirmed to an unprecedented degree the selfishness of Western countries with regard to the rest of the world, whose natural resources and labor have been exploited excessively for more than two centuries. Most of the vaccines supplied to Latin America came from China and Russia, even in countries close to the USA. Vaccination coverage on the African continent stands at 16% (end of April 2022).

Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed what those who campaign for the right to health for everyone everywhere have been saying for years: WTO rules on intellectual property rights have privatized the generous concept of transfer of technology that prevailed before the WTO and enshrined the primacy of the extremely huge profits of the pharmaceutical industry over the right to health.

Third, the Ricardo theory on which the trade policy of the WTO is based is proving harmful to the people and their governments. According to that theory, a country gains by specializing in the production of goods whose costs are the lowest. This is the theory of “comparative advantage” formulated by Ricardo. By specializing in production with the lowest cost at home, a country gains an advantage compared to other countries where production costs are higher. This theory calls for unrestricted world movement of goods and services and high security of supply chains around the planet.

What the COVID-19 crisis has revealed is that the specialization in the production of commodities and goods by one country makes all the others dependent on this country. The whole world has become dependent on countries capable of creating a vaccine and producing it. The whole world is also dependent on the supply chains.

The war inflicted on Ukraine by Russia provided the same demonstration of the dangers of the WTO theory of comparative advantages: the whole world depends on the cereal production of these two countries. The European Union, which was at the forefront of neo-liberal policies, is today a victim of its dogmatism since its zeal to apply these policies has made it dependent on Russian oil and gas.

Russian aggression has other global consequences. They are first and foremost political. This aggression against a peaceful sovereign state and war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russian troops don't bring the strong and unanimous condemnation they deserve. Western calls – fully justified – to condemn this agresssion and the crimes which accompany it do not arouse unanimous support. Far from it. Why ? Because the West has lost credibility.

USA and Europe are practicing respect for international law and human rights in a very variable way, according to their interests. They are erecting “a coalition for democracy” which includes authoritarian regimes and from which authentic democracies are excluded, the criterion not being democracy, but political allegiance to the West. They are arrogating the right to interfere in the internal politics of States to condemn acts which they tolerate in other States or practice at home. They are supporting or encouraging separatism here that they condemn there. United States and Europe have thereby lost moral leadership. This contributes to the terrible global disorder that we are witnessing today.

This international chaos is aggravated by the inadequacy of the UN to the today’s realities and by an aggression committed by a country being moreover one of the guardians of world peace as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (as other permanent members did in a recent past). Many examples allow us to affirm that it is better to have a world with the UN than a world without the UN. But the UN of 2022 does not have the means to provide the collective security that the planet needs.

The war in Europe is causing a refugee crisis which adds to those provoked by the conflicts arising from Western policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and by a migrant crisis wich is the result of the scandalous exploitation of African populations by Western transnational firms. Islamic terrorism remains a real threat. With the fear of war that is back, the arms race has resumed with the intensity of the Cold War years. The war inflicted on Ukraine is at the origin of an energy crisis and a food crisis which both generate world inflation, poverty and the prospect of famine on an unprecedented scale. All of this in a context where climate change and the massive destruction of biodiversity are putting humanity in mortal danger. Probably never have so many perils accumulated. Without a doubt, the year 2022 is the year of all dangers.

by: Raoul M. JENNAR Political analyst