One of the ironies of globalization (the natural phenomenon, not the ideology) is that many who seemingly oppose it are themselves inadvertently furthering it.
Since the advent of the Westphalian nation state it has been a mantra of traditional statesmanship that â€œwe donâ€™t comment on or interfere in another countryâ€™s internal affairs.â€ Interference, of course happens anyway, but until recently those in power reserved this for clandestine activities while publicly pronouncing their respect for the sacred sovereignty and territorial integrity of their global neighbors. We all wink and look the other way.
Not anymore. Since 2016 some of the most outspoken economic nationalists, anti-federalists, and anti-globalists have openly, actively, and brazenly interjected themselves into the politics of other countries. Thanks to Steve Bannon, a US President has proudly proclaimed his support for the Brexiteers in the UKâ€™s great domestic debate and had no qualms about identifying his favorite politicians in Britainâ€™s and Israelâ€™s recent selection of prime ministers. To return the favor, British politicians like Nigel Farage have joyfully expressed their preferences in a US presidential election.
It comes as no surprise that former, still unreformed imperialist states like Russia actively pursue strategies to influence elections in other countries, especially real (but fragile) democracies. Itâ€™s no secret that Russian money has funded Euro-sceptic political parties across Europe, influencing domestic elections as well as that of the European Parliament.
But itâ€™s not just Russia. Many other sovereign states had a stake in the outcome of the recent US elections, be it to protect energy interests, further foreign policy priorities or spread ideological preferences. The extent to which they may have directly funded and supported individual US politicians is not yet fully known, but the evidence is growing. For example, according to a recent US House Oversight Committee finding, the United Arab Emirates helped write an â€˜America Firstâ€™ energy policy campaign speech for presidential candidate Donald Trump.Â
When Robert Mueller was asked by a US Congressman if the exchange of information between Russian oligarchs and US election strategists was becoming typical for political campaigns, Mueller bluntly answered â€œI hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.â€
What exactly is The New Normal? Itâ€™s not totally clear yet, but the outlines are coming into view. Unilateralism is merging with multilateralism and vice versa.
On the one hand, anti-globalists disdain organizations like the UN and EU because they inhibit national sovereignty. Yet the same anti-interference advocates have no qualms about openly engaging in the policies and election campaigns of other countries. Your country is not only your business, itâ€™s our business too.
Traditional statesmen of the old school continue to insist that Brexit is a decision for the British people to decide. But Phil Bryant, the Republican Governer of Mississippi recently spoke at a fundraiser for a new US-based organization called â€œWorld4Brexitâ€. Peggy Grande, Chair of W4B proudly stated, â€œWe are here to support the democratic vote of the British people – they voted to leave the European Union and we want to make this happen.â€
Unlike those Americans who welcome the breakup of the European Union as such, many potential â€˜leaversâ€™ within EU countries have backed away from their own Brexits and focused their guns on the creeping federalization of the EU. Here, the campaign to â€˜Euro-globalizeâ€™ EU elections in 28 member states has already begun.
For example, Europeans have established many pan-European parties, some of which already function as European Parliament party groups in Brussels. Organizations like Volt want to go even further in the European Parliament elections and replace national party lists with pan-European candidate lists. Instead of voting for local parties and candidates from their own country, every European citizen would be choosing candidates from across the continent in all 28 countries.
So far, these attempts at denationalizing the EU parliamentary elections have been rejected. But the longterm goal is clear: allow politicians, parties, and political strategists from one country to directly engage in the national elections of another. Achieve that at the European Parliament level and the slippery slope to â€˜multi-nationalâ€™ national elections gets liberally lubricated.
Some fear that globalization will concentrate power in capitals like Brussels, Beijing, or Washington, D.C. But when the leaders of one country pick favorites for leading other countries, they are globalizing world politics in a different way.
Attempts to influence the politics of other countries are not just the work of spycraft. Itâ€™s a lucrative – and legal – business. Professional consultants, many from the US, are already collecting big fees for advising politicians in other countries. (In my country of Latvia, a former Republican campaign strategist openly advised a local Moscow-friendly party during the last parliamentary election.) But when those advisors become elected officials, take over governments, and continue to push their favorites as their official administration policy, the old concept of non-interference loses its meaning.
If this trend continues, multinational business interests, stateless oligarchs, and other national election â€˜influencersâ€™ will be supplemented by governments that openly support, finance, and endorse local parties in elections around the world.
In this dystopian future, the voters of France will be choosing among parties openly sponsored and represented by the governments of China, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Germany. The parliament of Italy will consist of MPâ€™s representing parties called â€˜The US Knows Bestâ€, â€œDeutschland Uber Allesâ€, and â€œRussia Today and Tomorrowâ€. Imagine CNN hosting a future US Presidential Primary debate in Omaha between the Presidents of Turkey, Russia, and Hungary on a dias with the Prime Ministers of the UK, India, and Brazil. Each will argue why their interests best serve American interests. Each will have a favorite US party and a direct stake in the outcome of every election, be it local or national.
In a sense, the anti-globalists who feared that the UN would emerge as a world government will have achieved their goal. Power will not be centralized in a single global capital run by One World Politicians and an army of transnational bureaucrats. Power will be distributed around the world. But it will be wielded by everyone, everywhere and anywhere on the planet. And it will be controlled by those who have the money, know how, and resources to nimbly work The New Normal.
In that case, the ultra-nationalists who disdain the cooperation that is encouraged by multinational bodies like the UN, IMF, World Bank, and EU will pursue it through through their own political party-based ideological transnationalism. One hand not only helps the other, it also votes for it.
In a way, thatâ€™s not so different from The Old Normal we have come to know and loathe. Itâ€™ll just be more openly global than ever before.