Oral Interventin I.Seminatore
Date de publication: 



System and situation

The current historical situation is characterized by the transformation of the general strategic framework (the international system) and by the rise of regional imbalances (subsystems) in their multiple interactions (linkages).

All this affects the strategic environment, because the balances of power between major players in the multi-polar system result from their global alliances, aimed at counterbalancing adverse coalitions and ensuring the stability of the system (or its transformation).

In this respect, the triple dynamic of the current situation – fragmentation, polarization and confrontation – is reflected in a reconfiguration of the military alliances and global strategic balances, in the face of the risks of conflicts between China, the United States and Russia.

In this way the China-USA-Russia triad is establishing an ambivalent policy of rivalry-partnership-antagonism. At stake is the control of the Eurasian mass and the Indian-Pacific ocean space, expressed in the two complementary strategies of Heartland and Rimland.

In this way and at local level, the outcome of the conflicts does not depend on the nuclear-ballistic relations between the leaders of the poles, but on alliances woven by global diplomacy.

Regional rivalries

The rivalries that are shaking several parts of the world today (the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe (Ukraine), the Caucasus (Georgia), the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, the Near and Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Turkey), the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Sunni and Shiite), South and North America, the South China Sea and the Far East), have forced both East and West to reconfigure their military alliances.

The aim is to set "red lines" between the interests of the poles and regional issues, so as to prevent uncontrollable escalations, to avoid any direct confrontation between the major players in the system, and to limit the decentralization of violence at regional level.

Dynamics and unknowns of the multi-polar system

In general, the dynamics of the multi-polar system, compared with the bipolar system, consist of:

- the permanence of the inter-state game, with either stabilizing or disruptive effects

- a change in the rules of the game (alliances) and of strategic partnerships, weakened by the breakdown of agreements that have become obsolete (SALT, INF)

- an increase in the number of key players (block leaders) and an asymmetrical redistribution of power

- the return of territorial revisionism (rectification of borders)

- a change in the nature of war and the mixing of conventional, nuclear and virtual warfare, and also the sudden and rapid inclusion of cybernetic and satellite spaces as geopolitical and strategy fields.

- a multiplication of tensions and decentralized conflicts, influencing the overall balance of forces.

Thus, any attempt to redefine any one regional order can be conceived today only in the perspective of a global planetary order and of the search for forms of planetary equilibrium and stability. It is by reference to the geopolitical and military triangulation of Russia, the United States and China and, at subordinate level, of Europe, India and Japan, that the relative freedom of the regional powers must be understood. It is there that one of the keys to the hoped-for success of the triad's general strategy lies.

The indispensable strategic dialogue between Europe and Russia

When it comes to Western Europe, the globalization of security issues requires an analysis of the general trends of the multi-polar system and suggests the need to establish a strategic dialogue between Europe and Russia.

The basis of this dialogue is the need to alleviate tensions and challenges to regional and global stability

A false return to the strategic simplifications of bipolarity

The heart of the international multi-polarity system correlates with a plurality of regional subsystems, in global competition with one another. These subsystems are subject to disputed and often exclusive spheres of influence and are of unequal political and military significance.

Faced with a fragmented West, will the goal of reformed (and post-Brexit) Europe be to return to a power play of equilibrium between the United States and Russia, in short to the Gaullist third force strategy that the EU is unable to practice? In prospective terms and on the level of long-term regional balances, US interventions since the Gulf War have altered the previous political and diplomatic relations between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries of the region.

In terms of political modernization, in the Near and Middle East, ideologies imported from the West – liberalism, socialism, secularism – have failed and the only forms of political regimes adopted have been military dictatorships and religious totalitarianism, in permanent conflict.

The United States's revision of its security doctrine is expressed today in the progressive freeze on nuclear arms control agreements.

From a strategic point of view, the US-Russian withdrawal from the START and INF agreements, and from the nuclear agreements with Iran have undermined the diplomatic trust between Western powers and produced a crisis in the United States' relations with Europe.

Elsewhere the balance-of-forces policy in East Asia does not allow us to consider the United States as a balancing pole, but as an integral part of the regional equilibrium, since the exercise of world hegemony makes America a global power and at the same time the strategic centre of gravity of the system.  For this reason an increase in tensions appears as a likely prospect within the planetary system, where the main actors do not agree, either on a common conception of the world order, on the rules of conduct to achieve it.


Brussels, 15 April 2019