Magazine article Foreign Policy

New Order

Magazine article Foreign Policy

New Order

Article excerpt

The multipolar world has become a global reality, recognized as a near certainty by no less an authority than the U.S. intelligence community. But it wasn't always such. For most of its geopolitical life, "multipolar" has been a synonym for America-bashing, whether by erstwhile allies in the Cold War or an anxious Russia grappling with its post-superpower status. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once bragged of the United States as the world's "indispensable nation"; today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promises to tilt the balance "away from a multipolar world and toward a multipartner world."

Although the term is not yet in use, Europe remains for centuries basically a multi-polar world: Several countries vie for dominance, but none reigns supreme for more than a few decades at a time.

circa 1350 to circa 1900

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Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech heralds the start of the Cold War, rendering the geopolitical world bipolar overnight. Refusing to take sides, five countries found the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955 under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nohru.

MARCH 5, 1946

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"Our deepest challenge," U.S. national security advisor Henry Kissinger writes, will be "to base order on political multipolarity even though overwhelming military strength will remain with the two superpowers." A year later, President Richard Nixon articulates the Nixon Doctrine, which seeks to exploit diplomatic divisions to reduce America's military commitments.

1969

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French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing describes his differences with U.S. President Jimmy Carter as a "means to attain our grand objective, namely, the organization of a multipolar world which will not be limited by the decisions made by two superpowers alone."

JANUARY 8, 1978

In The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale University historian Paul Kennedy predicts the balance of military power will shift over the coming 20 to 30 years, creating a truly multipolar world around 2009. "if the patterns of history are any guide, the multipolar economic balance will begin to shift the military balances," he later tells the New York Times. …

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