Andrei Martyanov has pointed to remarkable remarks the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, has recently made at the Aspen Security Forum 2021.
Milley is, to my knowledge, the first U.S. official who proclaims that we are entering a trilateral world where the U.S. Russia and China are somewhat equal great powers.
Martyanov quotes RT which quotes Milley:
“We’re entering into a tri-polar world with the US, Russia and China being all great powers. Just by introducing three vs two you get increased complexity.”
After the second world war the cold war saw two superpowers, each leading a block of states, who held each other in balance while engaging in various small proxy conflicts around the world. In the late 1980s the Soviet Union ended the cold war by dissolving itself. The U.S. then had its ‘unilateral moment’ which it, in contradiction international law, abused to mess up the Balkan and the Middle East. The end of the ‘unilateral moment’ came into sight when in 2007 the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would no longer endure the creeping expansion of NATO to its borders.
While the U.S. was bogged down in Middle East conflicts Russia rearmed with new weapons and China silently extended its capabilities. In 2015 Russia reentered the Middle East by coming to the help of the Syrian state which the U.S. was trying to eliminate. The ‘unilateral moment’ was over. China finally joined the club when it finished off the color revolution nonsense the U.S. was trying in Hong Kong. That rejection of U.S. hegemony on its doorsteps made it, in the eyes of Washington DC, into an ‘enemy’.
Milley understanding of all this is still a bit fazed:
China’s aspiration is to challenge the United States globally, Milley said. “They’ve been very clear about that. They have a China dream, and they want to challenge the so-called liberal, rules-based order that went into effect in 1945 at the end of World War II. They want to revise it. So, we have a … country that is becoming extraordinarily powerful that wants to revise the international order to their advantage. That’s going to be a real challenge over the coming 10 to 20 years, [and it’s] going to be really significant.”
The ‘the so-called liberal, rules-based order’ did not go into effect in 1945 but in the early 1990 when the U.S. used its ‘unilateral moment’ to reject international law and to replace it with a self defined ‘rules-based order’ that it made up and unilaterally changed whenever that was convenient. The U.S. defined ‘rules-based order’ is now becoming irrelevant as Russia and China insist on the rule of international law.
As Milley is the first U.S. official to publicly acknowledge the existence of the tripolar world. It will likely take some time for others, especially in the State Department and in the Senate, to accept that position. Those who see the U.S. as exceptional will continue to have difficulties to adopt to the new world order.
A sign of this can be seen in the Defense Department writeup of Milley’s talk in which the above Milley quote from the RT report is misrepresented:
At 14:38 into the video of the talk at the DoD site one can clearly hear that Milley speaks of a “bipolar world” and a “tri-polar world”, not of “war”.
But that may just have been a bit too much realism and too little warmongering for the DoD’s media department.