Will 2023 be known as the last year of global US hegemony? — RT World News

Will 2023 be known as the last year of global US hegemony? — RT World News

From Ukraine to Israel to China, the chaos of the past year saw the American hold on the reins of the world slip

By Timur Fomenko, political analyst

As we conclude the year 2023, we look back on another 12 months of global turmoil, upheaval, and uncertainty. Conflicts such as the war in Ukraine continued, while another full-scale war broke out in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. While tensions between China and the West cooled after reaching a boiling point, they still remain in the same geopolitical frame and could easily explode at any unpredictable moment.

Because of this, the past year has undoubtedly been one of the starkest periods of global turmoil since the run up to the first World War, and the historical parallels are uncanny. As a unipolar political order fragments with new challenger powers emerging, the world has descended into a security dilemma fraught with explosive regional conflicts, widespread struggles for influence, arms races and weaponization of trade. Following on from 2022, this has ushered in a new and less secure era.

The decline of unipolarity

A unipolar political order is a system where one power has exclusive dominance or hegemony over all the rest, and therefore is free to shape the rules and outcomes of the system to its own ends and interests. When the United States overcame the Soviet Union in the Cold War, it became an undisputed global hegemon and used this status to permeate the entire world with its cultural, economic, political and military influence, aiming to shape what it described as a “New American Century.” To this end, the US engaged in unrestrained military adventurism all over the world.

Similarly, an earlier unipolar order was known as “Pax Britannia,” which after the defeat of Napoleon’s France as its sole challenger, saw the British Empire become the global hegemon with France as a junior partner. However, in both instances, the “peaks” of those unipolar eras only lasted for a few decades until new challengers began to emerge, which transformed the world into a multipolar system where multiple great powers compete for influence, with often destructive consequences. The British Empire’s dominance was challenged by the rise of Imperial Germany, Japan, and Italy, three new empires which emerged at the end of the 19th century, subsequently paving the way for the events of World Wars I and II.

The new, dangerous era

Likewise, US unipolarity began to wane by the 2010s following the resurgence of Russia, as well as the rise of China. The years of 2018-2023 have been exceptionally consequential in opening a new period of geopolitical turmoil and struggle, as the US pivoted its foreign policies to confront both powers with a view to containing them and sustaining its dominance over the entire planet. No hegemony, of course, goes down without a fight. Britain fought both World Wars precisely for this reason but was exhausted to the point it was forced to pass the baton on to the US. Similarly, in the modern day, neither will America go down without a fight.

And this is why the year 2023 has been immensely significant in this regard. First, the war in Ukraine has continued, with the US aiming to encroach on Russia’s strategic space and impose a strategic defeat on Moscow with NATO containment. However, while Russia suffered initial setbacks in 2022, this year saw Ukraine fail to make any progress despite immense media hype, and the war has started to turn against Kiev as the West loses the political will to continue backing it in an unwinnable conflict. This will ultimately shape the future security architecture of Europe, and Russia will now be looking to impose nothing less than a total defeat on the far-right puppet state in Kiev.

But beyond this, what has been more important to this year, and ultimately what lies ahead, is the fate of the Middle East. In October, war broke out after Hamas decided to launch a full-scale assault on Israel from Gaza. The war was triggered by US appeasement of Israel’s hardline policies through the Abraham Accords, as well as the emerging multipolarity providing more political space for Hamas to resist. Israel responded with an overwhelming bombardment and invasion of Gaza, invoking strong condemnation from around the world. It aims to militarily occupy the strip, a series of decisions which will push the Muslim world’s relations with the Zionist state to the point of no return and therefore pose consequences for the entire region, which in turn will impact the West’s engagement with the Global South and the power struggle there with Russia and China. Ultimately, the war is also a marked failure of the hardline US policies on Iran and unsuccessful attempts to try and contain it by force.

Although Tehran is not a competitor for hegemony, it is nonetheless a formidable regional adversary for Washington, boasting significant power and population, with growing military capabilities, and is fighting to force the influence of the US and Israel out of the Middle East. To this end, Washington’s decision to give Israel free rein to destroy Gaza is a strategic setback in multiple domains. The US will have to commit to a new chapter of violent struggle across the Middle East to sustain its position, whether the it wants to or not.

Then of course, there is the top priority of American foreign policy, the ongoing struggle with China. Washington seeks to contain the rise of Beijing as a military and technological superpower, and militarily encircle it in the region it calls the Indo-Pacific. Although presently the two sides are undergoing a detente after Xi Jinping met Joe Biden in San Francisco, with the Taiwan issue likewise less critical in 2023, the relationship nonetheless remains the overall driver of the strategic environment we live in today, and there is little expectation the US will relent. Beijing is patient and prefers to play ‘the long game’ but is certainly rising to the challenge, which enables every other actor to assert its position, and thus further stretch the international order.

Thus, 2023 has been a geopolitically divisive year that will certainly be remembered by the history books, especially in reference to the Middle East, and will usher in 2024 as another decisive year which may determine the outcomes of many of these conflicts. The old world, the comfortable world of American privilege, is evaporating, and we potentially now face the return of a world we had hoped was confined to the experiences of our forefathers. Who said history was over, Francis?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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