From Ukraine to Taiwan, a new kind of global war is in full swing. It is a war waged on all fronts (military, political, economic, media, etc.). It is ubiquitous, protracted and marked by multiple twists and turns. The stakes are immense, nothing less than the organization/reorganization of the world.

The protagonists are clearly identified. The United States, followed by the Western countries that have thrown in their lot with them, are using every means to defend the current unipolar world order that enshrines their hegemony; Russia, China and other countries, particularly in the South, no longer accept the subordinate status reserved for them by this order and are advocating a multipolar world, without a hegemon. The outcome of this decisive battle will determine whether U.S. domination will continue or be consigned to history as the international order is recomposed.

The stakes are enormous. The United States is faced with the question of whether or not their empire will hold together, since Russian and Chinese resistance is considerable and is setting an example for the peoples of the South, who are themselves less and less willing to put up with American hegemony. Russia and China, on the other hand, are risking their very existence, as a US victory (and hence their defeat) would probably result in their dismemberment as countries and the subjugation of the resulting rump entities. On the one hand, the alternative is between the survival of capitalist globalization governed by the United States, and the end of its domination of the world (and, more broadly, of half a millennium of Western imperialism). And on the other, it is between a more balanced multipolar world aspired to by Russia, China and several other countries, and a dreadful cataclysm of great states falling apart, with the attendant consequences of dislocated societies, collapsing living standards and wandering human tides seeking refuge regardless of borders. At this stage, it is impossible to know which way history will turn.

This confrontation is global in scale, given the importance of the countries involved and their influence. It is indeed a world war that has yet to bear the name, one that is set to intensify and not rule out the transition from proxy warfare to the ultimate stage of warfare, i.e. direct military collision.

A hybrid world war

This world war is unlike the previous two. Traditionally, war took the form of a head-on clash between duly constituted armies, with the aim of defeating the opposing side by force of arms, in order to achieve objectives such as the occupation, amputation or annexation of part or all of its territory, the seizure of its colonial domain, or the imposition of political, military or economic constraints. The world wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 also gave rise to a reorganization of the international environment to the advantage of the victors.

But wars of this kind have become more hazardous than ever. First of all, the advent of nuclear weapons and the certainty of devastating retaliation meant that there was little hope of victory – the word had lost its meaning – and instead, the prospect of destruction on a prohibitive scale was assured. As for colonial wars, once synonymous with promenades and massacres of native populations, they have become costly, as the European powers and the United States have learned at their expense. Even easy military conquests of weak countries, such as Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, turned into unwinnable guerrilla wars that have forced the conqueror-occupier to withdraw lamentably. Secondly, the collective memory of the two world wars means that governments would be faced with a major undertaking if they chose to plunge their peoples into catastrophes of such magnitude. Although not impossible, success is dubious.

The decline of conventional warfare does not mean the end of conflict, far from it. War now takes a less direct form, its purpose being destabilization instead of conquest. The aim is to subjugate target countries through measures such as pressure, infiltration, subversion, ideological pollution and the bribing of elements likely to act as relays, all leading to a regime change that would replace an independent-minded authority by a more docile one. In short, the aim is to achieve victory without military combat, or with the minimum use of force. War becomes hybrid because it is multifaceted, the military aspect being only one particular dimension of a general assault against the foundations, structures and institutions of the unsubdued country. The US goal is not an impossible Ukrainian victory; Ukraine is sacrificed in advance. The hope is that the consummation of Ukraine will lead to the internal collapse of Russia. Ukraine is the “price to pay” for the desired result.

Adopted by the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy and the George Soros nebula, this method became widespread after the dismantling of the Soviet bloc. It was even theorized in the United States under the name of “color revolutions”, as the initiators chose a color to be displayed in front of the television cameras as a form of media branding. The role of the Western media is crucial in disseminating a fabricated “narrative”, denouncing the targeted power and creating support for the agitation. Triggered by a specific demand or grievance, these demonstrations are then taken over by groups, sponsored from abroad and often violent, who call for the fall of the regime, then carry out a coup d’état behind the screen of the disorder they have helped to exacerbate. The Maïdan “revolution” in Kiev in 2014 is a model of the kind that delivered Ukraine to the United States. According to Victoria Nuland, the official US representative on the ground, her country invested $5 billion in the enterprise. From Belgrade to Tbilisi, from Astana to Hong Kong, from Yerevan to Minsk, from Caracas to Beirut, the method is the same. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes not. The aim is invariably to drag into the US fold countries that had been partly or wholly out of it.

The current American-Russian conflict is a new kind of war, of the hybrid variety. Extension of NATO to Russia’s borders, encirclement of that country, “sanctions” and Ukrainian military pressure are designed to bring about Russia’s collapse without the United States having to fight. It is a proxy war, of the sort European Empires conducted, using local auxiliaries to spare their own forces. It is focused on Ukraine, the current fixation point, but is not limited to this territory and can spread or be duplicated elsewhere. Without disguise, a similar scenario is being set up against China, with Taiwan or the Taiwan Strait as alibis and with the use of anti-Chinese alliances made up of countries in the region. One provocation too many could lead to a “Ukrainian-style” conflagration. Time will tell whether the global conflict will remain hybrid in character, or tip over into direct armed confrontation.

Geopolitics or “values”?

One of the falsehoods surrounding the global conflict portrays it a battle of “values”. The claim goes that It represents a confrontation between “democracies” and “autocracies” or “dictatorships”, between the camp of goodness and the camp of evil. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA director and Secretary of State, put this nonsense into circulation. It is a triple red herring designed to disguise the nature of the struggle to perpetuate US hegemony behind lofty pretensions, to bind Western countries together under the aegis of the “leader”, and to confuse public opinion about the deep roots of the global conflict. The crudeness of the struggle by the US to remain the dominant power is thus covered by a veil that idealizes it and makes it seem attractive.

The global conflict is neither ideological nor “civilizational”. It is geopolitical and geo-economic. In this respect, the United States is neither better nor worse than the Empires that preceded it; its behavior is the same. At stake are the perpetuation (or termination) of its hegemony, the establishment (or not) of multipolarity, the strengthening (or weakening) of imperialism, the extension (or not) of neoliberal globalization, the triumph of American-centric globalism or the resurgence of national sovereignty. The nature of regimes counts for less in the equation than their international alignment. If they fall into line with the United States, they will be labelled democratic or “in transition”. If they refuse to bend, they will be reviled as autocratic, denounced as authoritarian, treated as pariahs, branded as terrorists, and their leaders will be demonized, dragged through the mud and, if possible, put to death. From Iraq to Serbia, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Iran, Russia and China, the procedure is now well rehearsed