The Upended Neoliberal World Order

Fareed Zakaria sees the forest for the trees in the Donald Trump reality TV show presidency:

Put his campaign rhetoric, tweets and appointments all together, and we’re getting a sense of U.S. foreign policy under Donald Trump. The president-elect has consistently signaled that he wants to be accommodating toward Russia and get tough on China. But that sees the world almost backward. China is, for the most part, comfortable with the U.S.-led international system. Russia is trying to upend it.

In this context, Obama’s overhyped pivot to Asia and the TPP trade deal reflects the American interest of integrating with the Asian economy. But Trump’s friendly stance toward Russia and aggressive posturing against China promises a White House friendly to Putin’s interest instead.

The “U.S.-led international system” Zakaria refers to is the neoliberal world order of global capitalism driving economic integration since the end of World War II. While the western governments rhetorically support democratization to aid the liberalization of foreign markets, in practice, free trade typically means corporate power exploiting cheap labor in post-colonized nations. Ultimately, these open markets lead to the enslavement of the world’s poorest in service to the world’s wealthiest who consume the fruit of the laborers’ work. While the neoliberal order has certainly established diplomatic protocol for international affairs, these bureaucracies typically enforce the interests of the elite and work to shape the electorate rather than represent it.

Through much of the postwar era, the Soviet Union was the only rival to and bulwark against global capitalism. The Russians offered communism as a collectivist alternative to the individualism of capitalism that pitches rich against poor. But in practice, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state disguised as socialist. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the neoliberal order has marched forward unchecked, realizing its goal of global integration. Inevitably, globalization has further empowered an elite circle of wealthy transnational tycoons who amass so much power, they hold entire governments captive to their interests.

The resurgence of Russia as a challenger to the west has steadily upended the neoliberal world order:

Russia has found a way to assert itself geopolitically, despite its economic weakness. It has done so by using effectively what strength it has, such as its still-formidable military and intelligence services as well as its veto in the U.N. Security Council. Most ambitiously and devastatingly, it has found a way to leverage its strength dramatically using cyberwarfare.

We are now gaining a fuller picture of Russia’s use of its power, which began years ago, with operations in Russia itself, then in Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany and other European countries and, finally, in the United States during the last presidential campaign. In each case, Moscow directed a full-spectrum strategy, including hacking, trolling, fake news and counterintelligence aimed at discrediting targeted politicians, interfering with campaigns and tilting elections. These efforts are sometimes used in conjunction with more traditional military force, as in Ukraine and Georgia. Observing Russia’s operations over the past three years, NATO’s former supreme commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, noted this summer that Moscow’s growing offensive efforts “are of a breadth and complexity that the [European] continent has not seen since the end of World War II.”


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