The Dangers of the "Ruleless" World
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The Dangers of the "Ruleless" World

By Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan
Executive Director, Political Science Association of Armenia

The Dangers of the "Ruleless" World

Cover Image Attribute: Armenian thunderstrike /

The United States President Donald J. Trump’s decision to recognize Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights brought upon criticism and admiration from both anti- and pro-Israeli groups worldwide. However, most parts of the discussion were focused on the damage or gains of that step for the US interests in the Middle East or on competing for Arab and Israeli narratives regarding the history of Golan Heights. Meanwhile, one of the lasting implications of this decision will be the future degradation of the world order based on international norms, rules, and principles.

Currently, the global security architecture is in the active phase of transformation from the so-called “Unipolar Moment” which is started with absolute hegemony of US - immediately after the end of the cold war. However, with passing time, the system is getting more complexed with the US keeping its military and economic advantage but simultaneously the country is no longer available to shape the world's future until and unless it suits its own interests. This relative decline of the US and the rise of others, most notably China (but not only), have brought the notion of great power rivalry back to the international relations vocabulary. 

This feature itself is sufficient to create complications in the world stage, but the recent US steps rejecting multilateralism and putting more and more emphasis on unilateral coercive actions make the world a really dangerous play. The decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal, to put secondary sanctions on any third-party company doing business with Iran, and the recent announcement of canceling any sanction waivers for countries importing Iranian oil send a clear message to the world that the US is ready to sacrifice international rules and norms to pursue its own interests. The tariffs imposed on EU member states and the launch of a trade war with China are effectively subverting World Trade Organization (WTO) proving that if you are too strong economically and your currency happens to be world reserve one, then you can easily break the international rules and norms. The decision on Golan Heights was the last step in the long chain of the US actions bringing more chaos into the world stage.

The US actions have already created a situation when other great powers and even regional ones may consider the possibility to break the international rules to advance their own interests. And if the US makes steps on the global stage, less powerful states may actively undermine the international rules on the regional level justifying their actions as necessary ones to protect their vital national interests. The current situation in the northern parts of Syria is a good example of such a world. Turkey has effectively occupied the northwestern parts of Syria and has all chances to keep its forces their as long as they want. On top of that, both US and Turkey are negotiating on the possibility to put Turkish forces along the Syrian–Turkish border in Syrian territory without any attempts to discuss this with the Syrian Government. 

Thus, we are facing the situation when regional powers are emphasizing on force and coercion to pursue their national interests and are not bothering themselves about preserving international principles and norms. This trend is especially worrisome for small states as they may become easy prey for bigger players. If global and regional powers are able to protect their interests then small states will face growing dangers of being suffocated. These developments compel small states to actively seek protection through entering into bilateral and multilateral alliances with stronger powers.

The region of South Caucasus is not an exception. Squeezed between Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the region is comprised of three internationally recognized republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, two partially recognized entities – Abkhazia and South Ossetia and unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic. The unraveling of world order and growing examples of violations of international rules and norms put enormous pressure on South Caucasian republics in their quest to secure their vital national interests. Among three republics Armenia is in a more vulnerable situation as Yerevan faces constant joint Azerbaijan–Turkey pressure over the Karabakh conflict. Obviously, Georgia has its problems with Russia, but after Georgia – Russia 2008 war and the recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence by Russia there is no immediate threat of another Russian military action against Georgia.

Given the Turkey’s recent inclination towards using force in its immediate neighborhood and breaking international rules and norms, as well as growing Turkey-US and Turkey–NATO tensions, Armenia can not hope that either US or NATO can deter Turkey from any hostile action against Armenia. Thus, as for now, the only viable option to secure Armenia from potential Turkish activities is Armenia–Russia bilateral security arrangements and Armenia’s membership into the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In current geopolitical turmoil, Armenia cannot afford the luxury of hoping that international law and norms may protect Yerevan from any potential aggressive action. Thus, no one should be surprised by the lack of Armenia’s enthusiasm to heed American advice and significantly reduce its relations with Iran and start to drift away from Russia.

About the Author:

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan | Executive Director, Political Science Association of ArmeniaDr. Benyamin Poghosyan is Executive Director, Political Science Association of Armenia holding this position since February 2011. He was Vice President for Research – Head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia in August 2016 – February 2019.  He joined Institute for National Strategic Studies (predecessor of NDRU) in March 2009 as a Research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Before this, he was Foreign Policy Adviser of the Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia. Dr. Poghosyan has also served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences and was an adjunct professor at Yerevan State University and in the European Regional Educational Academy.

His primary research areas are geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region. He is the author of more than 70 Academic papers and OP-EDs in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was appointed as a Distinguished Research Fellow" at the US National Defense University - College of International Security Affairs and also, he is a graduate from the US State Department's Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a Ph.D. in History and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Cite this Article:

Poghosyan, B., "The Dangers of the Ruleless World", IndraStra Global Vol. 005, Issue No: 05 (2019), 0017, | ISSN 2381-3652

Poghosyan, B., "The Dangers of the Ruleless World", IndraStra Global Vol. 005, Issue No: 05 (2019), 0017, | ISSN 2381-3652

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this insight piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the IndraStra Global.