*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
The world is steadily changing — every day, every hour, minute to minute. Sometimes these changes are imperceptible and not apparent to us. Sometimes, on the contrary, like last week, changes are especially clear and dramatic. This spirit of change in global politics shaped recent events to the full extent that two large international summits distinctly showed how the global agenda is transforming at top speed.
One event, the so-called Crimea Platform, a half-virtual summit of the anti-Russian coalition chaired by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tried with all its might to convince themselves and everyone else that the restoration of the unipolar world was imminent. The very name of this gathering is symptomatic. Crimea’s return to its home part symbolized the sun setting on the U.S. and collective West’s period of dictating to the world.
The moment the will of the Crimeans and the Russians to reunite overcame Washington and Brussels’ efforts to maintain control over Eurasia, the long-lasting neocolonial logic died away, logic which has predetermined the course of history since the end of the Cold War. It became clear that the Western-centric community of states and the elite ruling them is a colossus with feet of clay, crumbling under the impact of time and fate.
The roots of the convulsions that clutched the U.S. and Europe lay in this most important decision by Moscow taken in 2014. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the ensuing crisis in American politics, the failure of French projects in Africa, the NATO fiasco in Afghanistan, and many other landmark events reflected that the death of the infamous unipolar paradigm was inevitable. That’s why the West, along with its henchmen, time and again returns to the Crimean question (which, in reality, has been resolved forever), trying to convince themselves and others that returning to the happy times of American hegemony is still possible. But it was written even on the faces of the summit members that the task, set for them by their curators, proceeds somewhat automatically; they don’t believe in the success of their mission themselves. The fervor, characteristic for such gatherings in the recent past, gave way to apparent exhaustion and despair.
The unenthusiastic look of Kyiv’s allies was especially revealing in contrast to the BRICS summit. The decision of six more countries to join this group no doubt has great importance, but even more important is the fact that the forum of the “global majority,” which the meeting in Johannesburg became, appeared to be a true window into the future. It’s not a coincidence that individual participants in Kyiv’s summit, still participating in the platform by habit, rushed to South Africa and paid much more attention and effort to this grand, symbolic event.
Of course, using a widely known phrase, not everyone will be taken into the future. Emmanuel Macron frequently stated that he wished to join the Johannesburg event, but received a relatively polite refusal from the organizers. In the post-Western reality, there will be no place for those who helped fan the flames of destructive conflict, pitted countries and people against each other, and demonstrated willingness to help restore the U.S. to its former position of power.
Macron’s political career and that of his peers are entering their final lap; representatives of a new generation of leaders, who clearly understand that it’s impossible to restore the American empire, will now decide the further geopolitical priorities of the West. It could happen that in just a few years, the condition-driven Volodymyr Zelenskyy will host another summit in splendid isolation, watching with envy how the decisions determining not only the fate of Ukraine but also his personal fate are made in one of the capitals of the global south.