March 17, 2022 - 3:38pm

With Western powers increasingly assertive against Russia, it seems that we are finally witnessing the end of the unipolar world. Financially, culturally and spiritually, are we in the process of bifurcating?

Freddie Sayers sat down with Samo Burja, a sociologist and the founder of Bismarck Analysis, to look at the big-picture impact of the Ukraine war.

Western hegemony, says Burja, has an expiry date. Sanctions against Russia and anti-Russian sentiment since the start of the war in Ukraine has only made this split more imminent.

America and Europe might enjoy the illusion of influence, but it is China that holds the real power to accelerate the decoupling of East and West. By refusing to sanction Russia and perhaps even providing alternatives to the SWIFT banking system and limited services like Netflix or Facebook, China could make survival possible outside the Western sphere.

We should not count an excluded Russia out. With potential markets in Africa, Asia and South America, Russia still has the majority of the world to do business with. They might be five years behind the West, Burja admits, but whatever America invents, the rest of the world can quickly imitate.

It is only Western hubris which tells us that we have control over which way the next decade will go. Russia is an ‘anarchic’ state and Putin is a leader with few off-ramps. Sanctions have also exposed weaknesses in the Western system. What was the point of supporting the Saudi regime now that their oil reserves aren’t forthcoming? A risky precedent is being set: countries on the periphery of the Western world must choose if they are in or out.

The silver lining, if there is one, may be that competition could encourage dynamism in Western production and manufacturing if it is necessary to decouple from Chinese factories or Russian oil reserves. It could end the decadent decline we see in the West and stimulate a new age of invention.

A more pessimistic outcome, is that the West becomes increasingly illiberal as it tries to compete. Our internet is less and less free, with Western powers banning RT and Sputnik from airing unpopular opinions on the war in Ukraine. Add that to the seizure of protesters’ bank accounts in Ottawa and surveilled lockdowns of the pandemic and Western democracies are starting to seem more, not less, similar to Beijing. The spectrum of possibilities for world civilisation is wide open like it has not been for forty years.

Thanks to Samo Burja for a fascinating conversation.


Flo Read is UnHerd‘s producer and a presenter for UnHerd TV.