The recent Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg and the consultations in Saudi Arabia last weekend on ending the Ukraine conflict, while different events, form part of a single phenomenon. Their significance lies in the growing importance on the international stage of states that prefer not to take sides in the confrontation between Russia and the West, but are guided by pragmatic interests.
We now refer to this large group of countries as the world majority. It indeed comprises most of Earth’s population, but the name can be misleading. It’s not some form of united bloc.
However, we can talk about a new structural factor — the emergence of constraints on the great powers, which are used to thinking that everything depends on them. Now, it’s not possible to achieve goals without the support of – and even more so in spite of – countries that were previously regarded as afterthoughts.
The essence of the majority’s approach is the desire to distance itself from the political, economic and ideological constructs of others. To exaggerate, the view is that certain white gentlemen – who have been at the helm of the world for several centuries – have created a pile of modern problems by constantly fighting each other, and they are getting worse. (Russia, thanks to its Soviet legacy, retains a special ‘get out of jail card’, but is generally perceived as being part of the broader West.)
For the “first world,” there is no reason to help the minority deal with what it has created, because the developed community is not ready to change the system that has led things to a dead end, except cosmetically. It makes more sense to use the plight of the Global North to seek benefits for the Global South.
This is a simplified scheme, of course, and it will be adjusted for various circumstances, down to historical likes and dislikes. But it is really an auction: who will offer more and deliver it better? The US and its allies were the first to face such a situation. They were unpleasantly surprised by the firm unwillingness of non-Western countries to join the anti-Russian coalition in 2022. Now Moscow, too, sees the limits of its options. The majority of the world accepts Russia’s arguments about the causes of the conflict, but is not enthusiastic about the ongoing military campaign.
The latter resonates with the mood of many, but is not an urgent priority. There is neither a desire to borrow development models nor a demand for ideology, as there was in the twentieth century. Our proposals for developing an attractive ideological narrative to win the hearts and minds of the global majority are based on past experience, but the international landscape is very different now. Everyone is on their own. This is in fact the multipolar world that people sought when they wanted to defeat hegemony.
Russia does not have a colonial legacy, in the Global South – unlike the Western powers. Furthermore, Moscow possesses many assets that these countries need. Under the totality of objective circumstances, the opportunities for interaction with the world majority are favorable. Their implementation requires painstaking work, where the competitors are not so much Western opponents as the desire of partners to achieve more favorable conditions for themselves.
Pathos may be present, but it is secondary.