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What does 'multipolar' mean in international affairs?

The academic term has been in the news a lot lately following a number of major international events, including the attack in Israel.
What does 'multipolar' mean in international affairs?
Posted at 3:04 PM, Oct 10, 2023

A lot is happening in the world right now. The world has watched in horror at the attacks in Israel and the loss of life throughout the region. The world is still watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

While it may be easy to look at these events and others as not being related, some international experts believe something known as "multipolarity" may be to blame.

And if you don't know what "multipolar" in international affairs means, all you need to know is it's the academic concept that the United States is no longer the lone world superpower. Or at least not as dominant as before.

China has grown in influence in recent years. So has India. Saudi Arabia continues to insert itself into policy and sports.

Even Australia has a stronger military presence than before.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said last year: "A multipolar system of international relations is now being formed. It is an irreversible process; it is happening before our eyes."

SEE MORE: Why is Gaza the heart of global conflict?

So what does a multipolar world have to do with Ukraine or Israel? Well, experts have said for years that a changing world could mean some countries and organizations are willing to take risks, risks like Russia invading Ukraine. Or the terrorist organization Hamas attacking Israel.

The global affairs pundit Noah Smith wrote over the last few days on his substack, "A fully multipolar world has emerged, and people are belatedly realizing that multipolarity involves quite a bit of chaos."

Of course, while we may be on the verge of world power transforming, it's clear that the White House still wants the U.S. to be the leader.

In recent years, President Biden sold submarines to Australia to help them have a stronger military presence to combat China.

President Biden committed to helping Japan have a stronger military as well. And he gave a rare state dinner to the prime minister of India earlier this year.

How the White House navigates Israel's war, which is expected to last for some time, while simultaneously promising to help Ukraine's fight against Russia, will further test the world order in 2023. White House spokesperson John Kirby told Scripps News this week it's still early to try to connect too many dots.

"I think its too soon to draw trends here. They are two different situations too soon to draw any trend lines here. On each of them the U.S. will continue to support Israel and support Ukraine," said Kirby. 

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