Since the confrontation between the United States and China was consolidated, internationalists have carefully considered redefining the current state of the world as a new Cold War.
But it is not the end of the comparative historical methodology, as a support for International Relations, it generates exact parallels. The important thing is to find long-term irregularities that allow explaining the functioning of the international system in its current phase of Hegemonic Interdependence.
The characteristics of the first Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union can be studied in depth in classic texts such as Fontaine, A. (1967) Histoire de la guerre froide: a) bipolar non-war confrontation; b) where the rest of the world is organized under their spheres of influence; c) and each one respects his defined area; d) and claim the inadmissibility of neutrality; e) because it is an irreconcilable ideological division.
But the following central point (f) is the core characteristic of the conflict that was given by the consolidation of a logic of common neutrality: nuclear weapons transformed the traditional dynamics of war, because their use would generate “Mutual Assured Destruction”. Term that originates in the world of science with John von Neumann and moves to politics with the former US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.
Finally, as point (g), a concept graphed the state of the international system: the world was divided in two, separated by what Winston Churchill called in the Fulton conference in 1946 the “iron curtain”. A subject deeply analyzed by Harbutt (1988) in The iron curtain: Churchill, America, and the origins of the Cold War. The United States, from the reports and reasoning of George Kennan, can constitute a “containment policy” on the enemy, waiting for his collapse.
If we compare the previous historical period with the current Sino-North American structural relationship, we can make the following non-symmetrical analogy: a) we find ourselves with a non-warlike conflict that could be sustained over time and the cost of war is very high for both parties and the world in its entirety; b) the actors of the international system are located in delimited spheres that are not absolute and relatively compatible under their interests; c) both powers actively respect –that is, trying to weaken them– the influences of the other; d) both China and the United States subtly claim exclusivity in specific dimensions of their hegemony; e) there is a markedly ideological conception of the world, of perceptions and traditions that have been difficult to reconcile up to now.
But also, as a neuralgic point (f) we find that now it is the complex “Mutual Assured Interdependence” between both powers that produces a systemic logic that blocks any attempt to weaken to the maximum or think about the destruction of the counterpart.
Also finally, as point (g), we find a defining reality that outlines the limits of both dominations, which we will call “A silk curtain”. The Belt and Road Initiative, formerly the Silk Road, is presented as the concrete challenge of the emerging power to organize its expansion and hegemonic consolidation under a complex network of commercial, financial and development financing relations.
Argentina must be very clear about how the world realistically works. For this, it must understand that in the different dimensions of hegemonic interdependence there may be a strategic equidistance as an inspiring criterion. But always focused on what the academic Juan Battaleme calls selective commitment, which “forces to anticipate and propose from choosing on the priorities of the agenda, geographical position, costs of the alternatives and values that are desired to be maintained”.
This compels us to generate inclusive consensus that transcends current divisions and is framed within a long-term international strategy focused on development.
*Professor of the UBA, UNSO and Austral. CARI Consulting Member.
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