DI DAWID KACZMAREK
Oswald Spengler (1880 – 1936) – German historian, publicist and philosopher of culture. He was born into a bourgeois family. Already when he attended Gymnasium, he actively developed his scientific interests. He attended school as an auditor, choosing lectures from different fields in Munich, Berlin and Halle. In September 1913 he published the first volume of his emblematic work entitled ,”Decline of the West”. This book, as a distinctive program manifesto, brought him considerable popularity in a time of widespread catastrophism. He found his readers to be largely among artists and philosophizing authors rather than among representatives of the academic world, who had expressed many reservations regarding his scientific methods from the very beginning. Nevertheless, based on his methods, Spengler derived his conception of cyclical social change. He recognized civilization as a living organism, similar to all others, and therefore defined their development accordingly, within a framework of three stages: birth, decay, dissapearance. Such a perspective on the matter accordingly influenced his understanding of history. Spengler rejected a linear model of history (one which maintains a portrayal of history as a line which runs from a prehistoric beginning to some undefined point in the future, which would simultaneously constitute the highest stage of human development). Rather, he argued in favour of a closed circle of concrete events which, every time, determined their unimpeachable and unchangeable fates.
Oswald Spengler’s life writings, or above all his theory, are perfectly suitable to the context of my following considerations. The concept of change, regardless of whether we experience it in civilization, culture, or international relations, without a doubt, constitutes as the leading theme of the times in which we currently live. It can be somewhat felt in the air and seen in almost every domain of human life. While much can still be written about it here, basing ourselves on the works of the exquisite philosopher, it is key for us to understand and accept the inevitable character of the occurring change. All that is needed is for us to understand that this will not elude Poland, and even if our country will not be at its forefront, this does not relinquish the elites who rule over Poland of responsibility for the consequences resulting from it.
Analyzing the subject in the most general way possible – the current state of international relations can be defined as a sort of rivalry between the United States, the Chinese People’s Republic, as well as (as some experts claim) the Russian Federation. Viewed in this way, the United States appear as a dominating superpower, defending the current status quo which – practically since the beginning of the Cold War – is its only architect and main beneficiary. China is a revisionist superpower which, because of its omnifarious political, economic, and ideological conditions, has a deep (and throughout the years growing) resentment and conviction that the current system not only undervalues China’s might, but does not see China as having an appropriate place in the world hierarchy, that it also does not allow for the just conditions for the country’s further development. Such a view on the matter sounds tempting to Russia as well, who after having resolved internal problems since its system change over the centuries, unchangingly since twenty years, more or less actively strives to regain the Imperial position of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the relations between these two states display a converging of certain interests (particularly in their opposition to the United States), though one cannot presuppose their unanimity and accord. It must be remembered that despite everything, these two actors have different agendas and strategic cultures. The relationship between them is in large part an asymmetrical one, it is really a “marriage of convenience” (such a marriage is concluded with a precise aim, it rarely lasts, and falls apart once the aim has been achieved), out of which the Chinese benefit the most and through which Russia, apart from being an economic and political partner, acts also as a curtain, directing the world’s attention away from China’s actvities in the international arena.
Thus, a conclusion can be inferred, that the current change in international relations plays out within the conditions of a “clash of empires”. Of course, this term is more journalistic than academic. It ought not to be understood in military terms (though such a rivalry can evolve into proxy wars, which we will speak about later), but rather as an objectively existing state of dynamic clash between the opposing interests of particular actors. We realize that an exhaustive description of the character of this clash exceeds the framework of this article, and that any attempt at a more precise analysis would only represent an incomplete fragment of reality. Hence, moving forward, it is worth making an at least elementary classification of the spheres, through which it is currently carried out.
The first among them is the economic sphere. Though it somewhat lies in the shade (beyond the common man’s reach, without visible effects in everyday life), it is as equally relevant as the others. The “clash of empires” depends above all on the phenomenon of de-dollarization. Here I have in mind the actions undertaken by various countries to minimize the worth of the American dollar in international transactions. Active steps are taken equally by China and by Russia to promote the use of the Chinese yuan in international payments. Currently, this currency is used, for example, between China and developing African countries, or in the purchase of oil coming from Russia, and recently from Iran as well, on account of the renewed American sanctions (in connection with the retreat of the United States from the JCPOA). The goal of this is to undermine the position of the United States in the international monetary system, which directly translates into the state of a country’s economy or into the competitiveness of their goods in foreign markets. The second is the technological sphere. Two matters here deserve to be especially emphasized: the controversies of the Huawei firm (in view of its interesting Polish context) as well as the program of hypersonic weapon development (one which will not be detectable by radar systems). Regarding the first matter, Americans raised reservations over the firm’s internal standards (in China no regulative law exists to protect the privacy of collected data, which in the case of 5G, can be of a strategic character) and successfully led to its exclusion from local markets (for example Canada, Japan, and Australia). In Poland, it even led to the arrest of a Chinese worker from the firm, on charges of espionage. Hypersonic weaponry (a project towards which in China, and even more so Russia, are more advanced than the United States) will allow a given state to gain a strategic advantage on the battlefield of the future, where the key determinant of success will be the possibility to quickly destroy a designated target. A clash in the political sphere (in the broader sense of the term) would most visibly revolve around the “New Silk Road” project. This immense infrastructural project is counted on not only in order to gain a concrete economic gain, but is also i the responsability of strengthening the influences of the Middle Kingdom in the world and to challenge the American model of society for the world (at various levels). With such a formulated analysis, proxy wars also ought to be mentioned (which mostly consist of a subsequent stage of civil wars going on in places that are in conditions of general destabilization and with accumulating interests for superpowers). The prime example of such a war is in Syria, where the civil war is taking place between Bashar Al-Assad and the “opposition”, which has turned into a a proxy war with global consequences, which de facto takes place between Russia (supported among others by Iran and Hezbollah) and the United States (supported by France and the broadly defined West).
Such a classification allows for the designation of a couple of interesting regularities. Firstly, until not long ago, the United States, still practically guided by a cold war doctrine, carried out activities intended to suppress Russia’s influence (especially within Eastern Europe and the Middle East). Currently, despite a formal intensification of the general rhetoric) it appears that they redirect their interest towards East Asia. This happens not only due to the growing significance of that part of the world, but also due to China’s ever bolder steps in that region (i.e. in the matter of disputes over the South China Sea). The administration of Donald Trump redirects towards East Asia exceptionally ineptly, tripping over its own legs with every step. In the Middle East, Russia took advantage of this (Putin used Syria to break away from international isolation after accomplishing the illegal annexation of Crimea). A significant difference between Russia’s and China’s model of operation can also be seen. Both countries strive to contest American influences in different spheres and do so by different means. China prefers soft measures, political ones and behind-the-scenes. While Russia does not shy away from engaging in military and hybrid measures. This reveals to us the essence of the relation connecting the two countries. The activities of Russia and China (at least when we speak of those that run counter to the USA) indeed appear to complete each other, though it is China that benefits the most from Russia’s activities, which seems to “buy” them extra time until the moment when they will be obliged to engage with international problems more directly. Russia is certainly conscious of that imbalance in their relation with China, therefore one ought not to blindly posit a lasting concordance between these actors. Thus, there is some room for negotiation here, which the United States could take advantage of in certain conditions to draw Russia over to their side. Even if such a move were to remain only within the sphere of possibilities, it still has certain implications of a strategic nature. Empires have their allies of course (regional powers, minor states), they use them in order to achieve their aims, but they don’t interpret their relations with them as being above a previously chosen strategy or above the balance of power between themselves and their direct rivals. This leads one to conclude that empires have two main aims on the international stage: to gain advantage over their direct rival and to not allow too great a strengthening of powers with regional reach. This issue is well illustrated through the matter of growing influence from Iran and Syria. When, as a consequence of Assad’s military’s progress and of the Iranian militia allied with it, there appears the possibility of creating a land bridge linking Iran (through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) with the Mediterranean Sea, which would strengthen Tehran economically and politically – the United States counter-acted right away, creating a military base in Al-Tanf (a strategic place on the borders of Iran and Syria), but Russia too, who almost immediately redirected it’s engagement into other regions of the country, depriving Iranian forces of their aerial support and political protective umbrella.
In none of the key clashes for a new image of the world which I provided, does Europe take part (not counting their dispute over Huawei’s activity, where clumsy attempts appear to work out their own position). In all these matters, which in the vast majority of cases are unusually relevant to today’s international relations, the European Union is the subject, not the object of the politics of superpowers. Its countries are being affected by mutually opposed empires, which only deepens its institutional chaos and amplifies its progressive stagnation. An element of such a strife is animated by the Polish project “Three Seas Initiative” which has no chance of being realized, but is supported by Trump with the one aim of creating a market for his LNG gas and thus exercise pressure on Russia (which Americans will reject without hesitation; be it in the name of a diplomatic reset after a change of government in the capitol, or in the event of a radical strengthening of China), or the energy policy of the Russian Federation which manipulates gas prices or via projects like Nord Stream 2, which will break Europe up into West and East, which makes the carrying out of empirical policies in that area considerably easier.
During the Cold War there existed the Non-Aligned Movement, which balanced the activities of enemy political blocs, being the only factor than prevented a full-scale armed conflict. Though with full certainty an equal sign cannot be placed between that which today entails the “clash of empires” and the reality of those days, despite that, in the event that these these two periods coincide, there appears a natural need to establish a third arrangement in international relations, which would not only stand in opposition to opposing superpowers, but it would also be able to actively counteract their activities by securing the sovereignty of its members and by fighting for its interests on a global scale. Para-scientific fantasies relating to this subject ought to be rejected and it ought to be clearly indicated, that no country in Europe is individually able to protect their own independance. No political program can be based on any empire whatsoever, because due to the circumstances and because of the imbalance of power, it will never treat any other country as equal to itself. Finally, our fates will not be secured by the Intermarium either, which, even if it were to come into being, given the current reality, it would only be acting out USA interests, utterly unable to act independently due to the institutional disintegration of Ukraine and too great a weakness of Baltic states. In face of the visible bankruptcy of all other political organizations, in the era of the “clash of empires”, a historical need for a unified active bloc in global politics is revealed.
Of course, the European Union could not take this responsibility upon themselves. Compromised by a liberal ideological foundation, with many serious defeats such as Brexit, the immigration crisis, the inability to efface the divide between countries of the old and new Union, or overgrown with bureaucracy – it must eventually depart from history, making room for a new model of European integration. It is thus necessary to work out a system, which will take into account and duly recognize the identity of its members as well as ensure its own survival within conditions of globalization. The institution which will come into existence as a result of this model’s implementation, whether it will be called Organization of European Nations, European Allies or simply Imperium, will become an act so momentous in the history of the world, that as Spengler wrote, it will give rise not only to veritable change in the international arrangement, but will result in the opening of a completely new phase in the history of our civilization. There is no returning to old solutions. The last century’s ideas will not save us. We cannot allow ourselves to swing in the clouds. When to Europe, which regardless of everything constitutes the center of our world, the creative will shall return, and power will gather within it once more – a third arrangement in international relations, which will grow out of the East and West – will return the world its needed stabilization and ensure us a due place within it.