Defend Truth


We live in a multipolar world, and US foreign policy must adapt to recognise that


Jeffrey D Sachs, professor at Columbia University, is director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The inherent contradiction in US foreign policy is that it conflicts with the UN Charter, which commits the US and all other UN member states to a global system based on UN institutions in which no single country dominates.

US foreign policy is based on an inherent contradiction and fatal flaw. The aim of US foreign policy is a US-dominated world, in which the US writes the global trade and financial rules, controls advanced technologies, maintains military supremacy, and dominates all potential competitors.

Unless US foreign policy is changed to recognise the need for a multipolar world, it will lead to more wars, and possibly World War 3.

The inherent contradiction in US foreign policy is that it conflicts with the UN Charter, which commits the US (and all other UN member states) to a global system based on UN institutions in which no single country dominates.

The fatal flaw is that the US has just 4% of the world population, and lacks the economic, financial, military, and technological capacities, much less the ethical and legal claims, to dominate the other 96%.

At the end of World War 2, the US was far ahead of the rest of the world in economic, technological and military power. This is no longer the case, as many countries have built their economies and technological capacities.

French president Emmanuel Macron recently spoke the truth when he said that the European Union, though an ally of the US, does not want to be a vassal of the US. He was widely attacked in the US and Europe for uttering this statement because many mediocre politicians in Europe depend on US political support to stay in power.

In 2015, former US Ambassador Robert Blackwill, an important US foreign policy strategist, described the US grand strategy with exceptional clarity. He wrote that “since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals, first on the North American continent, then in the Western hemisphere, and finally globally,” and argued that “preserving US primacy in the global system ought to remain the central objective of US grand strategy in the 21st century.”

To sustain US primacy vis-à-vis China, Blackwill laid out a game plan that president Joe Biden is following. Among other measures, Blackwill called on the US to create “new preferential trading arrangements among US friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China”; “a technology-control regime” to block China’s strategic capabilities; a build-up of “power-political capacities of US friends and allies on China’s periphery”; and strengthened US military forces along the Asian rimlands despite any Chinese opposition.

Most US politicians and many in Britain, the EU, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand support the United States’ aggressive approach. I do not. I view the US approach to China as contrary to the UN Charter and peace.

China has the right to prosperity and national security, free from US provocations around its borders. China’s remarkable economic accomplishments since the late 1970s are wonderful for both China and the world.

During the long century from 1839 to 1949, China was driven into extreme poverty in a period marked by European and Japanese invasions of China and Chinese civil wars. Britain invaded in 1839 to force China to buy Britain’s addictive opium. Other powers piled on during the following century. China has finally recovered from that disastrous period, and in the process, ended poverty of around one billion people!

China’s new prosperity can be both peaceful and productive for the world. China’s successful technologies — ranging from vital cures for malaria to low-cost solar power and efficient 5G networks — can be a boon for the world.

China will only be a threat to the extent that the US makes China into an enemy. US hostility to China, which mixes the arrogant US aim of dominance with long-standing anti-Chinese racism dating back to the 19th century, is creating that enemy.   

The dangers of US foreign policy extend beyond China. The US goal to expand Nato to Ukraine and Georgia, thereby surrounding Russia in the Black Sea, helped stoke the Ukraine War. Countless nations see the danger of this approach. Major nations from Brazil to India and beyond aim for a multipolar world. All UN member states should recommit to the UN Charter and oppose claims of dominance by any nation. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The only thing bipolar about Putin is a medical prognosis

    Economy = size of Spain

    Military = cannot invade a small non-Nato country after a year of long range attacks when Ukraine does not respond outside its borders.

    If putin attacked Germany and NATO was not involved (and no nuclear), it would be game over in less than a month.

    Lesson : when your weight is about size of Madagascar, don’t start a tug of war with Africa.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    As always, a contrarian and thought provoking article from Jeffery Sachs.

  • Raymond Auerbach says:

    Thanks for a well-reasoned and thought-provoking argument from Jeffrey Sachs! It is vital that China is given diplomatic recognition for its technological and economic leadership, but at the same time, China’s human rights record leaves much to be desired and state surveillance there is a daily reality. However, US bullying, especially on agriculture, robs smaller countries of their independence. Many love to criticise the UN system, and there is much to criticise, but the UN does a huge amount to foster international cooperation and development, and FAO, UNCTAD & UNESCO play vital roles. The US should be leading by example, rather than bullying!

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    Jeffrey does not seem to be completely objective. The USA & NATO never actively aimed at either surrounding Russia OR incorporating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. What is true is that many of the old Soviet Republics around Russia wants to join NATO; my information is because they had the experience of Russian imperialism and they thus want to have some protection against it, as they are not strong enough to keep Russia at bay on their own. In this way Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania applied for NATO membership (I think it was in the 1990’s or early 2000’s) and eventually it was given to them. Similarly we all know about Ukraine’s quest for NATO membership; but the resistance from European countries and the USA against it is equally well known. I don’t know if the current Russian-Ukraine war is changing their beliefs in this regard, but I see no sign of it. It is true that at the Budapest Conference some reference was made to a desire to do so, but that was only political rhetoric by one leader. In practice the actions of both NATO and the USA contradict such actions. What is also true is that this untrue narrative of an imperial NATO suits Russia very well because under Putin Russia clearly has imperial ambitions, and that clearly shows why the desire of these old Soviet republics to join NATO is very justified – to protect themselves against it.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . What is also true however is that the current UN-dominated rules-based system that was created in the aftermath of WW2 seems to be outdated and I would be surprised if it is not succeeded by something else. The world in the 1940’s did look vastly different and the power balances (economic, political and militarily) was completely different from today. I see an undemocratic bloc in the east, all neighbours of each other, creating an alternative world order for themselves, and eventually the UN-based system will have to enter into discussions with this new system in order to get some new rules and agreed limits to what nations are allowed to do. This is needed because of the multitude of modern challenges that all countries in the world are sharing and which can only be effectively addressed by collective action across the world; to name just two of many, climate change and nuclear prolifiration. So NOBODY, not China and also not the USA or the EU, can afford to go it alone, they will simply have to find ways of co-operating and agreed new rules. But it seems quite obvious to me that the rules that applied until now have to go through an official process of drastic reconsideration in the international world. The only question is how long it will take for the USA & NATO and their allies on the one side, and China on the other, to realise this. But the current confusing interactions, I believe is the start of that process.

  • William Stucke says:

    Prof Sachs writes of “a technology-control regime”. The USA is attempting to apply sanctions against China, in order to limit their access to high technology.

    May I remind my fellow South Africans of the effects of sanctions during the Apartheid Era? One of these was to force RSA to develop its own technologies, and its own solutions to a scarcity of materials and resources. Sasol, anyone?

    This misguided attempt by the USA to dominate the world in all ways will undoubtedly backfire in a number of ways. One of these is that China will develop, in short order, whatever technology the USians are attempting to deny them.

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