Putin, Guterres and ‘age of chaos’ we are entangled in

An interview and a speech from last week rang alarm bells regarding the fate of world politics. The two-hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin was conducted by the American journalist Tucker Carlson, while the speech was delivered at the United Nations General Assembly by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and concluded that the world had entered an “age of chaos.”

Putin’s remarks highlighted great power competition in the multipolar world and the long history of the West’s confrontation with Russia, while Guterres underlined the impossibility of addressing the world’s most pressing problems – from climate change to the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

In truth, the two reflections complement each other: as the international system gets dragged into chaos, the few powers with the ability to create order are competing against each other. To make matters worse, that competition could become aggravated in the near future.

Let’s start with the Putin interview.

Making the case that Ukraine was not a state with historical references, the Russian president essentially opened to question the current borders in Eastern Europe:

• After World War II, Ukraine received land from Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania. Ukraine is an artificial state that was shaped at Stalin’s will.

• The West promised Russia not to expand NATO to the east, but there have been five enlargements since 1991. The West tricked Russia.

• I made several attempts to address the problems between the West and Russia, but my proposals were declined.

• I brought up the Russian admission into NATO, but President Bill Clinton and his team turned it down.

• The CIA-backed coup in Ukraine fueled the violence in that country. The Ukrainian government started the war in 2014.

• We could have ended the dispute with Ukraine during the negotiations in Istanbul 18 months ago. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood in the way.

• As soon as we pulled back our troops from Kyiv, the Ukrainian negotiators immediately threw all our agreements reached in Istanbul into the bin.

• U.S. sanctions do not work. The West must understand that it cannot defeat Russia.

The main takeaway from the Putin interview was that Russia (along with China) does not have an aggressive agenda – instead, the West created problems in the international system through NATO enlargement and the weaponization of the U.S. dollar under American leadership.

The Russians keep in mind that the West intends to disintegrate the Russian Federation as it undermined the Soviet Union. According to the Kremlin, what happened in Ukraine and Georgia (and even the Arab revolts) reflected that goal.

Guterres’ speech

Meanwhile, Guterres added a footnote to history as an eyewitness to Israel’s massacres in Gaza crippling the U.N. system.

Recalling that the Security Council is “deadlocked by geopolitical fissures” and the current division is “deeper and more dangerous” than earlier episodes, the Secretary-General delivered a stern warning.

Again, Guterres underscored that there were “well-established mechanisms” during the Cold War to manage superpower relations which are missing in today’s multipolar world. That results in nuclear proliferation and “a dangerous and unpredictable free-for-all with total impunity.”

The most striking example of that situation is the West’s silence in the face of Israel’s aggression – not to mention its unconditional support of the massacres, which invalidates its value claims.

‘Age of chaos’

Obviously, the state of multipolarity, which Putin and Guterres recently highlighted, does not have to lead the world to an “age of chaos.” Yet the transformation of great power rivalries into proxy conflicts, the deepening sense of insecurity, devastating technological competition, and the blatant disregard of international norms and mechanisms – especially by those actors most aggressively propagating them – hint at the approaching age of chaos.

The United States stopped upholding the liberal international order, which served its interests, and instead focused on its narrow national interests. Meanwhile, China lacks the set of norms, ambition and capacity to promote order and the European Union depends on the U.S. even just to stay safe.

Although Putin hammered home the point that the West, not Russia, was being aggressive, there is no way that Russia will be able to communicate that it does not place European security at risk. At the same time, India and other rising powers remain preoccupied with trying to shelter themselves from the emerging chaos.

As a country that has dealt with the challenges arising from the deepening global and regional chaos over the last decade, Türkiye knows perfectly well what is around the corner. That is why Ankara hasn’t just been saying that “the world is bigger than five” and “a fairer world is possible.” It also seeks to promote stability and order in its neighborhoods.

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