Megatrends of 2014: A new Cold War and ISIS crisis

To plan for the future, we must analyze the past and ask one very important question: What were the political trends of 2014?

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova
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With two weeks left of 2014, it is time to look back and draw conclusions as we ready ourselves to step into the New Year.

To plan for the future, we must analyze the past and ask one very important question: What were the political trends of 2014?

What is clear is that 2014 will be remembered as a turning point in the contemporary history of international relations. The world will never be the same and perhaps in the future, the year will be known as a dramatic and significant period in human history.

This year, the international community has borne witness to the complete failure of the old mechanisms of global governance. The U.N. doesn’t fulfill its role any longer. Moreover, it faces financial problems with regard to providing aid for Syrian refugees. Even though the U.N. has finally succeeded and has recently resumed its assistance, most of the burden of responsibility lies on the shoulders of national governments and NGOs. Furthermore, the U.N. seemed hapless in the face of Israeli’s policy towards Palestinian territories. This year, Israel shelled Gaza, expanded settlements and failed to curb violence.

One could say that a multipolar world is being born in the throes of chaos

Maria Dubovikova

Also this year, the Ukrainian crisis turned into a major international conflict, a new episode of the Cold War if you will.

Violence in the south-east of Ukraine remains unchecked by the international community, as for some players it is disadvantageous to do so. The U.N. and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe appear to be powerless when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis and preventing the West/Russia conflict from further nonsensical intensification. Even if a fragile truce is achieved between the Donetsk/Lugansk Self-Proclaimed Republics and Kiev, it will inevitably end up marred by a new and bloody turn.

Regular violations

International law has been regularly violated for many years by the key players, being so heavily trampled under the feet of “national interests” that it has lost any remnants of bygone glory, respect and reputation.

The behavior of international players is becoming more and more egoistic, returning to the playbook of pure Realpolitik. The players move from relative collective thinking to alliance thinking and the logic of all activities seems to be linked to national interests. This trend is common for the Northern countries, in other words those who tend to reckon themselves as the most developed and prosperous. Furthermore, there is a strong internal shift towards nationalism. This shift has different forms, from the UK’s discourse of leaving the EU, to the Ukrainian’s own discourse.

Politics and political games prevail over the market economy and economic interests. The logic of the global market economy seems to have been completely broken this year. It was sacrificed due to dubious political maneuvers.

The countries of the lesser developed world - those of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America - have revealed a very important trend that was mostly conditioned by the clash between the West and Russia. These players appear to be very important in terms of geopolitical games for the both sides of the clash – world powers rushed to use them to their own advantage. Apparently, having become aware that their role in the global ongoing confrontation was being raised, these states, sought to diversify their ties and look for more independence from any major player.

Staying neutral guarantees these lesser developed countries security and practically zero negative consequences, even if their political maneuvers are not approved of by any of the power players.

A worrying trend

A worrying trend this year has been the rise of ISIS, which marks a leap in the evolution of extremism. It’s no longer about simple subversive and terrorist activities. ISIS is not just orchestrating guerrilla warfare, but total regular war as well. ISIS is not just a vague organization with a pointless goal of the extermination of “infidels;” it has a clear goal to establish a so-called Islamic State. Within the conquered territories, they set their rules, laws and regulate daily life. They build a state. This is a new form of extremism we have never faced before. It cannot be fought through the means we have previously used to fight terrorism. The idea upheld by ISIS attempts to appeal to the deep positive associations (Islamic Caliphate, Golden Age of Islam, prosperity, glory, strength) hidden in the subconscious and cannot be bombed out.

One could say that a multipolar world is being born in the throes of chaos. But this is not a sure thing. Anarchy, it seems, will come to the fore in international relations and we may see a decline in the power of those who influence the fate of the world today. The so-called third world is about to start a strong growth and development period. At least it has all the conditions to do so. The current trends could develop into the already predicted phenomenon: A decline of the West and the rise of the East.

Summing up the megatrends of 2014, it seems that 2015 will be a difficult year. It’s useless to wait for the powers and their current leaders to change course as they are not keen on drawing conclusions and using common sense or logic. The international community, especially the West, is not ready for the modernization and reform of international institutions as it doesn’t correspond to the interests of the powers that believe in the power and strength of nation-state alliances only. If we survive 2015 with no losses, it would be a great success in and of itself.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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